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THE PROPHECIES OF ISAIAH. Vol. II. Completing the 

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THE four walls and the twelve gates of the Seer 
looked in different directions, but together they 
guarded, and opened into, one City of God. So the 
four Gospels look in different directions; each has its own 
peculiar aspect and inscription ; but together they lead 
towards, and unveil, one Christ, " which is, and which 
was, and which is to come, the Almighty." They are the 
successive quarterings of the one Light. We call them 
" four " Gospels, though in reality they form but one, 
just as the seven arches of colour weave one bow ; and 
that there should be four, and not three or five, was 
the purpose and design of the Mind which is above all 
minds. There are " diversities of operations " even in 
making Testaments, New or Old ; but it is one Spirit 
who is " over all, and in all ; " and back of all diversity 
is a heavenly unity a unity that is not broken, but 
rather beautified, by the variety of its component parts. 
Turning to the third Gospel, its opening sentences 
strike a key-note unlike the tone of the other three. 
Matthew, the Levite Apostle, schooled in the receipt 
of custom where parleying and preambling were not 
allowed goes to his subject with sharp abruptness, 
beginning his story with a "genesis," "the book of the 
generation of Jesus Christ." Mark, too, and John, 
without staying for any prelude, proceed at once to 



their portrayals of the Divine Life, each starting 
with the same word " beginning "though between the 
" beginning " of St. Mark and that of St, John there is 
room for an eternity. St. Luke, on the other hand, 
stays to give to his Gospel a somewhat lengthy preface, 
a kind of vestibule, where we become acquainted 
with the presence and personality of the verger, before 
passing within the temple proper. 

It is true the Evangelist does not here inscribe his 
name; it is true that after inserting these lines of 
explanation, he loses sight of himself completely, with 
a " sublime repressing of himself" such as John did 
not know ; but that he here throws the shadow of him- 
self upon the page of Scripture, calling the attention of 
all people and ages to the "me also," shows clearly 
that the personal element cannot be eliminated from the 
question of inspiration. Light is the same in its nature; 
it moves only in straight lines ; it is governed by fixed 
laws ; but in its reflections it is infinitely varied, turn- 
ing to purple, blue, or gold, according to the nature of 
the medium and reflecting substance. And what, indeed, 
is beauty, what the harmony of colours, but the visible 
music as the same light plays upon the diverse keys ? 
Exactly the same law rules in inspiration. As the 
Divine Love needed an incarnation, an inshrining in 
human flesh, that the Divine Word might be vocal, so 
the Divine Light needs its incarnation too. Indeed, we 
can scarcely conceive of any revelation of the Divine 
Mind but as coming through a human mind. It needs 
the human element to analyze and to throw it forward, 
just as the electric spark needs the dull carbon-point to 
make it visible. Heaven and earth are here, as else- 
where, " threads of the same loom," and if we take out 
one, even the earthly woof of the humanities, we leave 


only a tangle ; and if it is true of works of art that " to 
know them we must know the man who produced them," 
it is equally important, if we would know the Scripture, 
that we have some knowledge of the scribe. And 
especially important is it here, for there are few books 
of Scripture on which the writer's own personality is 
more deeply impressed than on the Gospel of St. Luke. 
The "me also" is only legible in the third verse, but 
we may read it, between the lines, through the whole 

Concerning the life of St. Luke the facts are few. 
It has been thought by some that he was one of the 
" certain Greeks " who came to Jerusalem to worship ; 
while others, again, suppose him to be the nameless one 
of the two Emmaus travellers. But both these sup- 
positions are set aside by the fact that the Evangelist 
carefully separates himself from those who were " eye- 
witnesses," which he could not well have done had he 
taken part in those closing scenes of the Lord's life, or 
had he been honoured with that "infallible proof" of the 
Lord's resurrection. That he was a Gentile is evident ; 
his speech bewrayeth him ; for he speaks with a Grecian 
accent, while Greek idioms are sprinkled over his pages. 
Indeed, St. Paul speaks of him as not being of the 
" circurncision " (Col. iv. n, 14), and he himself, in 
Acts i. 19, speaks of the dwellers at Jerusalem, and 
the Aceldama of "their" proper tongue. Tradition, 
with unanimous voice, represents him as a native of 
Antioch, in Syria. 

Responding to the Divine Voice that bids him 
" write," St. Luke brings to the task new and special 
qualifications. Familiar with the Old Testament 
Scriptures at least in their Septuagint form, as his 
many quotations show intimately acquainted with the 


Hebrew faith and ritual, he yet brings to his work a 
mind unwarped by its traditions. He knows nothing 
of that narrowness of spirit that Hebraism uncon- 
sciously engendered, with its insulation from the great 
outer world. His mount of vision was not Mount Zion, 
but a new Pisgah, lying outside the sacred borders, 
and showing him " all the kingdoms of the world/' as 
the Divine thought of humanity took possession of him. 
And not only so, we must remember that his connection 
with Christianity has been mainly through St. Paul, 
who was the Apostle of the " uncircumcision." 'For 
months, if not for years, he has been his close com- 
panion, reading his innermost thoughts ; and so long 
and so close together have they been, their two hearts 
have learned to beat in a perfect synchronism. Besides, 
we must not forget that the Gentile question their 
status in the new kingdom, and the conditions ^demanded 
of them had been the burning question of the early 
Church, and that it was atf,his same Antioch it had 
reached its height. It was at Antioch the Apostle Peter 
had " dissembled," so .soon forgetting the lessons of 
the Caesarean Pentecost, 'holding himself aloof from the 
Gentile converts until Paul felt constrained to rebuke 
him publicly ; and it was to Antioch came the . decree 
of the Jerusalem Council, that Magna Charta which 
recognized and enfranchised manhood, giving the 
privileges of the new kingdom to Gentiles, without 
imposing upon them the Judaic anachronism of cir- 
cumcision. We can therefore well understand the bent 
of St. Luke's mind and the drift of his sympathies ; 
and we may expect that his pen though it is a reed 
shaken with the breath of a higher inspiration will 
at the same time move in the direction of these 


And it Is exactly this its " gentility/' if we may be 
allowed to give a new accent and a new meaning to an 
old word that is a prominent feature of the third 
Gospel. Not, however, that St. Luke decries Judaism, 
or that he denies the " advantage " the Jews have ; he 
cannot do this without erasing Scripture and silencing 
history ; but what he does is to lift up the Son of Man 
in front of their tabernacle of witness. He does not 
level down Judaism ; he levels up Christianity, letting 
humanity absorb nationality. And so the Gospel of 
St. Luke is the Gospel of the world, greeting " all 
nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues " with. 
its " peace on earth." St. Matthew traces the genealogy 
of Christ back to Abraham ; St. Luke goes farther back, 
to the fountain-head, where all the divergent streams 
meet and mingle, as he traces the descent to Adam, the 
Son of God. Matthew shows us the " wise men," lost 
in Jerusalem, and inquiring, " Where is He that is born 
King of the Jews ? " But St. Luke gives, instead, the 
" good tidings " to " all people ; " and then he repeats 
the angel song, which is 'the key-note of his Gospel, 
" Glory to God in the highest, . . . goodwill toward 
men." It is St. Luke only who records the first 
discourse at Nazareth, showing how in ancient times, 
even, the mercy of God flowed out towards a Gentile 
widow and a Gentile leper. St. Luke alone mentions 
the mission of the Seventy, whose very number was a 
prophecy of a world-wide Gospel, seventy bgrng'the 
recognized symbol of the Gentile world/ /aS*' twelve 
stood for the Hebrew people. St. Luke alone gives 
us the parable of the Good Samaritan, showing that 
all the virtues did not reside in Israel, but that there 
was more of humanity, and so more of Divinity, in the 
compassionate Samaritan than in their priest and 


Levite. St. Luke alone records the call of Zacchaeus, 
the Gentile publican, telling how Jesus cancelled their 
laws of heredity, passing him up among the sons of 
Abraham. St. Luke alone gives us the twin parables 
of the lost coin and the lost man, showing how Jesus 
had come to seek and to save that which was lost, 
which was humanity, here, and there, and everywhere. 
And so there breathes all through this Gospel a 
catholic spirit, more pronounced than in the rest, a 
spirit whose rhythm and deep meaning have been 
caught iri the lines 

11 There's a wideness in God's mercy, 
Like the wideness of the sea." 

The only other fact of the Evangelist's life we will 
here notice is that of his profession ; and we notice 
this simply because it enters as a factor into his work, 
reappearing there frequently. He was a physician ; 
and from this fact some have supposed that he was a 
freedman, since many of the Roman physicians were 
of that class. But this by no means follows. All" phy- 
sicians were not freedmen ; while the language and style 
of St. Luke show him to be an educated man, one, too, 
who walked in the upper classes of society. Where he 
speaks natively, as here in the introduction, he uses 
a pure Greek, somewhat rounded and ornate, in which 
there is a total absence of those rusticisms common 
in St. Mark. That he followed his calling at Troas, 
where he first joined St. Paul, is probable ; but that he 
practised it on board one of the large corn-ships of the 
Mediterranean is a pure conjecture, for which even his 
nautical language affords no presumption ; for one 
cannot be at sea for a few weeks especially with an 
observant eye and attentive ear, as St. Luke's were 


without falling naturally into nautical language. One's 
speech soon tastes of salt. 

The calling of a physician naturally develops cer- 
tain powers of analysis and synthesis. It is the art of 
puttingjhings .together. From the seen or felt sym- 
toms he traces out the unseen cause. Setting down 
the known quantities, by processes of comparison or of 
elimination he finds the unknown quantity, which is 
the disease, its nature and its seat. And so on the 
the pages of the third Gospel we frequently find the 
shadow of the physician. It appears even in -his brief 
preface; for as he sits down with ample materials 
before him on one 'side the first-hand testimony ot 
"eye-witnesses," and on the other the many and some- 
what garbled narratives of anonymous scribes we see 
the physician-Evangelist exercising a judicious selec- 
tion, and thus compounding or distilling his pure 
elixir. Then, too, a skilled and educated physician 
would find easy access into the higher circles of 
society, his very calling furnishing him with letters 
of introduction. And so, indeed, we find it. Our 
physician dedicates his Gospel, and also the "Acts," 
to, not the "most excellent," but the "most noble" 
Theophilus, giving to him the same title that he after- 
wards gave to Felix and to Festus. Perhaps its English 
equivalent would be "the honourable." At any rate 
k shows that this Theophilus was no mere myth, a 
locution for any " friend of God," but that he was a 
person of rank and influence, possibly a Roman go- 
vernor. Then, too, St. Luke's mention of certain names 
omitted by the other Evangelists, such as Chuza and 
Manaen, would suggest that probably he had some 
personal acquaintance with the members of Herod's 
household. Be this as it may, we recognize the 


tl physician" in St. Luke's habits of observation, his 
attention to detail, his fondness for grouping together 
resemblances and contrasts, his fuller reference to 
miracles of healing, and his psychological observations. 
We find in him a student of the humanities. Even in 
his portrayal of the Christ it is the human side of the 
Divine nature that he emphasizes ; while all through his 
Gospel, his thought of humanity, like a wide-reaching 
sky, overlooks and embraces all such earthly distinc- 
tions as position, sex, or race. 

With a somewhat high-sounding word " Forasmuch," 
which here makes its solitary appearance in the pages 
of Scripture a word, too, which, like its English 
equivalent, is a treble compound the Evangelist calls 
our attention to his work, and states his reasons for 
undertaking it. It is impossible for us to fix either 
the date or the place where this Gospel was written, 
but probably it was some time between A.D. 58-60. 
Now, what was the position of the Church at that 
date, thirty-five years after the Crucifixion ? The fiery 
tongues of Pentecost had flashed far and wide, and 
from their heliogram even distant nations had read the 
message of peace and love. Philip had witnessed the 
wonderful revival in "the (a) city of Samaria." Antioch, 
Caesarea, Damascus, Lystra, Philippi, Athens, Rome 
these names indicate, but do not attempt to measure, 
the wide and ever-widening circle of light. In nearly 
every town of any size there is the nucleus of a Church ; 
while Apostles, Evangelists, and Christian merchants 
are proclaiming the new kingdom and the new laws 
everywhere. And since the visits of the Apostles would 
be necessarily brief, it would only be a natural and 
general wish that some permanent record should be 
made of their narratives and teaching. In other places, 


which lay back of the line of Apostles' travel, the story 
would reach them, passed from mouth to mouth, with 
all the additions of rumour, and exaggerations of Eastern 
loquacity. It is to these ephemeral Gospels the Evan- 
gelist now refers; and distinguishing, as he does, the 
" many "from the "eye-witnesses" and "ministers of 
the word/' he shows that he does not refer to the 
Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark which probably 
he has not seen for one was an Apostle, and both 
were " eye-witnesses." There is no censure implied 
in these words, nor does the expression " taken in 
hand" in itself imply failure; but evidently, to St. 
Luke's mind, these manifold narratives were incomplete 
and unsatisfactory. They contain some of the truth, 
but not all that the world should know. Some are put 
together by unskilled hands, and some have more or 
less of fable blended with them. They need sifting, 
winnowing, that the chaff may be blown away, and the 
seed tares separated from the wheat. Such is the 
physician's reason for now assuming the role of an 
Evangelist. The "forasmuch," before being entered 
on- the pages of his Scriptures, had struck upon the 
Evangelist's soul, setting it vibrating like a bell, and 
moving mind and hand alike in sympathy. 

And so we see how, in ways simple and purely 
natural, Scripture grows. St. Luke was not conscious 
of any special influence resting upon him. He did not 
pose as an oracle or as the mouthpiece of an oracle, 
though he was all that, and vastly more. He does not 
even know that he is doing any great work ; and who 
ever does ? A generous, unselfish thought takes pos- 
session of him. He will sacrifice leisure and ease, that 
he may throw forward to others the light that has 
fallen upon his own heart and life. He will be a truth- 


seeker, and a light-bearer for others. Here, then, we 
see how a human mind falls into gear with the Divine 
mind, and human thought gets into the rhythm and 
swing of the higher thought. Simply natural, purely 
human are all his processes of reasoning, comparing, 
and planning, and the whole Gospel is but the perfect 
bloom of this seed-thought. But whence came this 
thought ? That is the question. Did it not grow out 
of these manifold narratives ? and did not the narra- 
tives themselves grow out of the wonderful Life, the 
Life which was itself but a Divine Thought and Word 
incarnate ? And so we cannot separate heaven from 
earth, we cannot eliminate the Divine from even our 
little lives ; and though St. Luke did not recognize it 
as such he was an ordinary man, doing an ordinary 
thing yet we, standing a few centuries back, and 
seeing how the Church has hidden in her ark the omer 
of manna that he gathered, to be carried on and down 
till time itself shall be no more, we see another 
Apocalyptic vision, and we hear a Voice Divine that 
commands him " write." When St. Luke wrote, "It 
seemed good to me also/ 7 he doubtless wrote the pro- 
noun small ; for it was the {< me " of his obscure, retiring 
self; but high above the human thought we see the 
Divine purpose, and as we watch, the smaller "me" 
grows into the ME, which is a shadow of the great 
I AM. And so while the "many" treatises, those 
which were purely human, have passed out of sight, 
buried deep in their unknown sepulchres, this Gospel 
has survived and become immortal immortal because 
God was back of it, and God was in it. 

So in the mind of St. Luke the thought ripens into 
a purpose. Since others " have takerf in hand ;) to 
draw up a narrative concerning those matters which 


have been " fulfilled among us," he himself will do the 
same ; for has he not a special fitness for the task, and 
peculiar advantages? He has long been intimately 
associated with those who from the very fir"st were 
" eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word/' the chosen 
companion of one Apostle, and doubtless, owing to his 
visit to Jerusalem and to his prolonged residence at 
Caesarea, personally acquainted with the rest. His 
shall not be a Gospel of surmise or of rumour ; it shall 
only contain the record of facts facts which he himself 
has investigated, and for the truth of which he gives 
his guarantee. The clause "having traced the course 
of all things accurately from the first" which is a 
more exact rendering than that of the Authorized 
Version, " having had perfect understanding of all things 
from the very first" shows us the keen, searching 
eye of the physician. He looks into things. He 
distinguishes between the To seem and the To be, the 
actual and the apparent. He takes nothing for granted, 
but proves all things. He investigates his facts before 
he endorses them, sounding them, as it were, and 
reading not only their outer voice, which may be as- 
sumed, and so untrue, but with his stethoscope of 
patient research listening for the unconscious voices 
that speak within, and so finding out the reality. He 
himself is committed to nothing. He is not anxious 
to make up a story. Himself a searcher after truth, 
his one concern is to know, and then to tell, the truth, 
naturally, simply, with no fictitious adornment or 
dressing up of his own. And having submitted the 
facts of the Divine Life to a close scrutiny, and satis- 
fied himself of their absolute truth, and having thrown 
aside the many guesses and fables which somehow 
have woven themselves around the wonderful Name, 


he will write down, in historical order as far as may be, 
the story, so that his friend Theophilus may know 
the "certainty of che things" in which he has been 
" instructed/' or orally catechized, as the word would 

Where, then, it may be asked, is there room for 
inspiration ? If the genesis of the Gospel is so purely 
human, where is there room for the touch of the 
Divine ? Why should the Gospel of St. Luke be 
canonized, incorporated into Holy Scripture, while the 
writings of others are thrown back into an Apocrypha, 
or still farther back into oblivion ? The very questions 
will suggest an answer. That touch of the Divine 
which we call inspiration is not always an equal 
touch. Now it is a pressure from above that is over- 
whelming. The writer is carried out of himself, 
borne up into , regions where Sight and Reason in 
their loftiest flights cannot come, as the prophet fore- 
tells events no human mind could foresee, much less 
describe. In the case of St. Luke there was no need 
for this abnormal pressure, or for these prophetic 
ecstasies. He was to record, for the most part, facts 
of recent occurrence, facts that had been witnessed, 
and could now be attested, by persons still living ; 
and a fact is a fact, whether it is inspired or no. 
Inspiration may record a fact, while others are omitted, 
showing that this fact has a certain value above others ; 
but if it is true, inspiration itself cannot make it more 
true. Nevertheless, there is the touch of the Divine 
even here. What is the meaning of this new depar- 
ture ? for it is a new and a wide departure. Why 
does not Thomas write a Gospel ? or Philip, or Paul ? 
Why should the Evangelist-mantle be carried outside 
the bounds of the sacred land, to be thrown around 


a Gentile, who cannot .speak the sacred tongue except 
with "a" foreign ShibbolethJ Ah, we see here the 
movings of the Holy Ghost ! selecting the separate 
agents for the separate tasks, and dividing to " every 
man severally as He will." And not only does the 
Holy Spirit summon him to the work, He qualifies 
him for it, furnishing him with materials, and guiding 
his mind as to what shall be omitted and what retained. 
It is the same Spirit, who moved "holy men of old " 
to speak and write the things of God, who now touches 
the mind and heart of the four Evangelists, enabling 
them to give the four versions of the one Story, in 
different language, and with sundry differences of 
detail, but with no contradiction of thought, each 
being, in a sense, the complement of the rest, the four 
quarters making one rounded and perfect whole. 

Perhaps at first sight our subject may not seem to ' 
have any reference to our smaller lives; for who of 
us can be Evangelists or Apostles, in the highest 
meaning of the words ? And yet it has, if .we look 
into it, a very practical bearing upon our lives, even 
the commonplace, every-day life. Whence come our 
gifts ? Who makes these gifts to differ ? Who gives 
us the differing taste and nature? for we are not 
consulted as to our nature any more than as to our 
nativities. The fact is, our "human" is touched by 
the Divine at every point. What are the chequered 
scenes of our lives but the black or the white squares 
, to which the Unseen Hand moves us at will ? Earth's 
problem is but Heaven's purpose. And are not we, 
too, writing scriptures? putting God's thoughts into 
words and deeds, so that men may read them and 
know them? Verily we are; and our writing is for 
eternity. In the volume of our book are no omissions 


or erasures. Listen, then, to the heavenly call. Be 
obedient to your heavenly vision. Leave mind and 
heart open to the play of the Divine Spirit. Keep 
self out of sight. Delight in God's will, and do it. 
So will you make your lowlier life another Testament, 
written over with Gospels and Epistles, and closing at 
last with an Apocalypse. 



LUKE i. 5-25, 57-80. 

AFTER his personal prelude, our Evangelist goes 
on to give in detail the pre-Advent revelations, 
so connecting the thread of his narrative with the 
broken-off thread of the Old Testament. His language, 
however, suddenly changes its character and accent ; 
and its frequent Hebraisms show plainly that he is no 
longer giving his own words, but that he is simply 
recording the narratives as they were told him, pos- 
sibly by some member of the Holy Family. 

"There was in the days of Herod, king of Judaea." 
Even the surface-reader of Scripture will observe how 
little is made in its pages of the time-element. There 
is a purposed vagueness in its chronology, which 
scarcely accords with our Western ideas of accuracy 
and precision. We observe times and seasons. We 
strike off the years with the clang of bells or the 
hush of solemn services. Each day with us is lifted 
up into prominence, having a personality and history 
all its own, and as we write its history, we keep it 
clear of all its to-morrows and its yesterdays. And 
so the day grows naturally into a date, and dates com- 
bine into chronologies, where everything is sharp, exact. 
.Not so, however r was it, or indeed is it, in the Eastern 


world. Time there, if we may speak temporally, was 
of little moment. To that slow-moving and slow- 
thinking world one day was a trifle, something atomic ; 
it took a number of them to make an appreciable 
quantity. And so they divided their time, in ordinary 
speech, not minutely as we do, but into larger periods, 
measuring its distances by the shadows of their striking 
events. Why is it that we have four Gospels, and 
in fact a whole New Testament, without a date ? for 
it cannot possibly be a chance omission. Is the time- 
element so subdued and set back, lest the "things 
temporal " should lead off our minds from the " things 
spiritual and eternal " ? For what is time, after all, 
but a negative quantity? an empty space, in itself 
all silent and dead, until our thoughts and deeds strike 
against it and make it vocal ? Nay, even in the 
heavenly life we see the same losing of the time- 
element, for we read, " There should be time no 
longer." Not that it will then disappear, swallowed 
up in that infinite duration we call eternity. That 
would make heaven a confusion ; for to finite minds 
eternity itself must come in measured beats, striking, 
like the waves along the shore, in rhythmic intervals. 
But our time will be no longer. It must needs be 
transfigured, ceasing to be earthly, that it may become 
heavenly in its measurement and in its speech. And 
so in the Bible, which is a Divine-human book, 
written for the ages, God has purposely veiled the 
times, at any rate the " days " of earthly reckoning. 
Even the day of our Lord's birth, and the day of His 
death, our chronologies cannot determine : we measure, 
we guess, but it is randomly, like the blinded men 
of Sodom, who wearied themselves to find the door. 
In Heaven's reckoning deeds are more than days. 

i- 5"25, 57-So.] THE MUTE PRIEST. 17 

Time-beats by themselves are only broken silences, 
but put a soul among them, and you make songs, 
anthems, and all kinds of music. " In those days " may 
be a common Hebraism, but may it not be "something 
more? may it not be an idiom of celestial speech, 
the heavenly way of referring to earthly things ? At 
any rate we know this, that while Heaven is careful 
to give us the purpose, the promise, and the fulfilment, 
the Divine Spirit does not care to give us the exact 
moment when the promise became a realization. 
And that it is so shows that it is best it should be 
so. Silence sometimes may be better than speech. 

But in saying all this we do not say that Heaven 
is unobservant of earthly times and seasons. They 
are a part of the Divine order, stamped on all lives, 
on all worlds. Our days and nights keep their alter- 
nate step our seasons observe their processional order, 
singing in antiphonal responses ; while our world, 
geared in with other worlds, strikes off our earthly 
years and days with an absolute precision. So, now 
the time of the Advent has been Divinely chosen 
for whole millenniums unalterably fixed ; nor have the 
cries of Israel's impatient hopes been allowed to hurry 
forward the Divine purpose, so making it premature. 
But why should the Advent be so long delayed ? In 
our off-handed way of thinking we might have sup- 
posed the Redeemer would- have come directly after 
the Fall ; and as far as Heaven was concerned, there 
was no reason why the Incarnation and the Redemption 
should not be effected immediately. The Divine Son 
was even then prepared to lay aside His glories, and 
to become incarnate. He might have been born of the 
Virgin of Eden, as well as of the Virgin of Galilee ; 
and even then He might have offered unto God that 


perfect obedience by which the " many are made 
righteous." Why, then, this strange delay, as the 
months lengthen into years, and the years into cen- 
turies ? The Patriarchs come and go, and only see the 
promise " afar off." Then come centuries of oppres- 
sion, as Canaan is completely eclipsed by the dark 
shadow of Egypt; then the Exodus, the wanderings, 
the conquest The Judges administer a rough-handed 
justice ; Kings play with their little crowns ; Prophets 
rebuke and prophesy, telling of the " Wonderful " who 
shall be; but still the Messiah delays His coming. 
Why this strange postponement of the world's hopes, 
as if prophecy dealt in illusions only ? We find the 
answer in St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (chap, 
iv. 4). The " fulness of the time " was not yet come. 
The time was maturing, but was not yet ripe. Heaven 
was long ago prepared for an Incarnation, but Earth 
was not ; and had the Advent occurred at an earlier 
stage of the world's history, it would have been an 
anachronism the age would have misunderstood, There 
must be a leading up to God's gifts, or His blessings 
cease to be blessings. The world must be prepared 
for the Christ, or virtually He is no Christ, no Saviour 
to them. The Christ must come into the world's mind 
as a familiar thought, He must come into the world's 
heart as a deep-felt need, before He can come as the 
Word Incarnate. 

And when is this "fulness of the time " ? " In the 
days of Herod, king of Judaea." Such is the phrase 
that now strikes the Divine hour, and leads in the 
dawn of a new dispensation. And what dark days 
were those to the Hebrew people, when on the throne 
of their David sat that Idumean shadow of the dread 
Caesar ! Their land swarms with Gentile hordes, and 

i. 5-25, 57-80.] THE MUTE PRIEST. . 19 

on the soil devoted to Jehovah rise stately, splendid 
temples, dedicated to strange gods. It is one irruption 
of Paganism, as if the Roman Pantheon had emptied 
itself upon the Holy Land. Nay, it seemed as if the 
Hebrew faith itself would become extinct, strangled 
by heathen fables, or at any rate that she would 
survive, only the ghost of her other self, walking like 
an apparition, with veiled face and sealed lips, amid the 
scenes of her former glories. " The days of Herod " 
were the Hebrew midnight, but they give us the Bright 
and Morning Star. And so upon this dial-plate of 
Scripture the great Herod, with all his royalties, is 
nothing more than the dark, empty shadow which 
marks a Divine hour, "the fulness of the time." 

Israel's corporate life began with four centuries of 
silence and oppression, when Egypt gave them the 
doubled task, and Heaven grew strangely still, giving 
them neither voice nor vision. Is it but one of the 
chance repetitions of history that Israel's national life 
should end, too, with four hundred years of silence ? 
for such is the coincidence, if, indeed, we may not call 
it something more. It is, however, just such a coin- 
cidence as the Hebrew mind, quick to trace resemblances 
and to discern signs, would grasp firmly and eagerly. 
It would revive their long-deferred and dying hopes, 
overlaying the near future with its gold. Possibly it 
was this very coincidence that now transformed their 
hope into expectation, and set their hearts listening 
for the advent of the Messiah. Did not Moses come 
when the task was doubled? And* was not the four 
hundred years' silence broken by the thunders of the 
Exodus, as the I AM, once again asserting Himself, 
" sent redemption to His people " ? And so, counting 
back their silent years since Heaven's last voice came 


to them through their prophet Malachi, they caught 
in its very silences a sound of hope, the footfall of 
the forerunner, and the voice of the coming Lord. 
But where, and how, shall the long silence be broken ? 
We must go for our answer and here, again, we see 
a correspondence between the new Exodus and the 
old to the tribe of Levi, and to the house of Amram 
and Jochebed. 

Residing in one of the priestly cities of the hill- 
country of Judaea though not in Hebron, as is commonly 
supposed, for it is most unlike Jy that a name so familiar 
and sacred in the Old Testament would here be omitted 
in the New was " a certain priest named Zacharias." 
Himself a descendant of Aaron, his wife, too, was of 
the same lineage ; and besides being " of the daughters 
of Aaron," she bore the name of their ancestral mother, 
" Elisabeth." Like Abraham and Sarah, they were both 
well advanced in years, and childless. But if they were 
not allowed to have any lien upon posterity, throwing 
themselves forward into future generations, they made 
up the lack of earthly relationships by cultivating the 
heavenly. Forbidden, as they thought, to look forward 
down the lines of earthly hopes, they could and did look 
heavenward ; for we read that they were both " right- 
eous" a word implying a Mosaic perfection "walking 
in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord 
blameless." We may not be able, perhaps, to give 
the precise distinction between f{ commandments " and 
"ordinances," for they were sometimes used inter- 
changeably; but if, as the general use of the words 
allows us, we refer the " commandments " to the moral, 
and the " ordinances" to the ceremonial law, we see 
how wide is the ground they cover, embracing, as they 
do, the (then) " whole duty of man." Rarely, if ever, 

i- 5- 2 5> 57-8o.] THE MUTE PRIEST. 21 

do the Scriptures speak in such eulogistic terms ; and 
that they should here be applied to Zacharias and 
Elisabeth shows that they were advanced in saint- 
liness, as well as in years. Possibly St. Luke had 
another object in view in giving us the portraits of 
these two pre-Advent Christians, completing in the 
next chapter the quarternion, by his mention of Simeon 
and Anna. It is somewhat strange, to say the least, 
that the Gentile Evangelist should be the one to give 
us this remarkable group the four aged Templars, who, 
" when " it was yet dark, rose to chant their matins and 
to anticipate the dawn. Whether the Evangelist in- 
tended it or not, his narrative salutes the Old, while 
it heralds the New dispensation, paying to that Old 
a high though unconscious tribute. It shows us that 
Hebraism was not yet dead ; for if on its central stem, 
within the limited area of its Temple courts, such a 
cluster of beautiful lives could be found, who will tell 
the harvest of its outlying branches ? Judaism was not 
altogether a piece of mechanism, elaborate and exact, 
with a soulless, metallic click of rites and ceremonies. 
It was an organism, living and sentient. It had nerves 
and blood? Possessed of a heart itself, it touched the 
hearts of its children. It gave them aspirations and 
inspirations without number; and even its shadows 
were the interpreters, as they were the creations, of the 
heavenly light. And if now it is doomed to pass away, 
outdated and superseded, it is not because it is bad, 
worthless; for it was a Divine conception, the "good" 
' thing, preparing for and proclaiming God's " better 
thing." Judaism was the " glorious angel, keeping 
the gates of light ; " and now, behold, she swings back 
'the gates, welcomes the Morning, and herself then 


It is the autumn service for the course of Abia 
which is the eighth of the twenty-four courses into 
which the priesthood was divided and Zacharias pro- 
ceeds to Jerusalem, to perform whatever part of the 
service the lot may assign to him. It is probably the 
evening of the Sabbath the presence of the multitude 
would almost imply that and this evening the lot gives 
to Zacharias the coveted distinction which could only 
come once in a lifetime of burning incense in the Holy 
Place. At a given signal, between the slaying and the 
offering of the lamb, Zacharias, barefooted and robed in 
white, passes up the steps, accompanied by two assist- 
ants, one bearing a golden censer containing half a 
pound of the sweet-smelling incense, the other bearing 
a golden vessel of burning coals taken from the altar. 
Slowly and reverently they pass within the Holy Place, 
which none but Levites are permitted to enter ; and 
having arranged the incense, and spread the live coals 
upon the altar, the assistants retire, leaving Zacharias, 
a l one a l O ne in the dim light of the seven-branched 
candlestick, alone beside that veil he may not uplift, 
and which hides from his sight the Holy of Holies, 
where God dwells " in the thick darkness." Such is 
the place, and such the supreme moment, when Heaven 
breaks the silence of four hundred years. 

It is no concern of ours to explain the phenomenon that 
followed, or to tone down its supernatural elements. 
Given an Incarnation, and then the supernatural be- 
comes not only probable, but necessary. Indeed, we 
could not well conceive of any new revelation without 
it ; and instead of its being a weakness, a blemish on 
the page of Scripture, it is rather a proof of its heaven- 
liness, a hall-mark that stamps its Divinity. Nor is" 
there any need, believing as we do in the existence of 

1.5-25,57-80] THE MUTE PRIEST. 

intelligences other and higher than ourselves, that we 
apologize for the appearance of angels, here and else- 
where, in the story; such deference to Sadducean doubts 
is not required. 

Suddenly, as Zacharias stands with uplifted hands, 
joining in the prayers offered by the silent "multitude" 
without, an angel appears. He stands "on the right 
side of the altar of incense/' half- veiled by the fragrant 
smoke, which curling upwards, filled the place. No 
wonder that the lone priest is filled with "fear," and 
that he is "troubled" a word implying an outward 
tremor, as if the very body shook with the unwonted 
agitation of the soul. The angel does not at first 
announce his name, but seeks rather to calm the heart 
of the priest, stilling its tumult with a " Fear not," as 
Jesus stilled the waters with His " Peace." Then he 
makes known his message, speaking in language most 
homely and most human: "Thy prayer is heard." 
Perhaps a more exact rendering would be, " Thy 
request was granted," for the substantive implies a 
specific prayer, while the verb indicates a "hearing" 
that becomes an " assenting." What the prayer was 
we may gather from the angel's words ; for the whole 
message, both in its promise and its prophecy, is but 
an amplification of its first clause. To the Jew, child- 
lessness was the worst of all bereavements. It implied, 
at least they thought so, the Divine displeasure ; while 
it effectually cut them off from any personal share in 
those cherished Messianic hopes. * To the Hebrew 
heart the message, " Unto you a son is born," was 
the music of a lower Gospel. It marked an epoch in 
their life-history; it brought the fulfilment of their 
desires, and a wealth of added dignities. And Zacharias 
had prayed, earnestly and long, that a son might be 


born to them ; but the bright hope, with the years, had 
grown distant and dim, until at last it had dropped 
down beyond the horizon of their thoughts, and become 
an impossibility. But those prayers were heard, yea, 
and granted, too, in the Divine purpose; and if the 
answer has been delayed, it was that it might come 
freighted with a larger blessing. 

But in saying that this was the specific prayer of 
Zacharias we do not wish to disparage his motives, 
confining his thoughts and aspirations within a circle 
so narrow and selfish. This lesser hope of offspring, 
like a satellite, revolved around the larger hope of a 
Messiah, and indeed grew out of it. It drew all its 
brightness and all its beauty from that larger hope, the 
hope that lighted up the dark Hebrew sky with the 
auroras of a new and fadeless dawn. When mariners 
"take the sun/' as they call it, reading from its disc 
their longitudes, they bring it down to their horizon- 
level. They get the higher in the lower vision, and 
the real direction of their looks is not the apparent 
direction. And if Zacharias' thoughts and prayers 
seem to have an earthward drift, his soul looks higher 
than his speech ; and if he looks along the horizon- 
level of earthly hopes, it is that he may read the 
heavenly promise. It is not a son that he is looking 
for, but the Son, the " Seed " in whom " all the families 
of the earth shall be blessed." And so, when the 
silent tongue regains its powers of speech, it gives its 
first and highest doxologies for that other Child, who 
is Himself the promised "redemption" and a "horn 
of salvation ; " his own child he sets back, far back in 
the shadow (or rather the light) of Him whom he calls 
the (i Lord." It is the near realization of both these 
hopes that the angel now announces. 

i-5- 2 5. 57-So-] THE MUTE PRIEST. 25 

A son shall be born to them, even in their advanced 
years, and they shall call his name "John/' which 
means "The Lord is gracious." "Many will rejoice 
with them at his birth/' for that birth will be the 
awakening of new hopes, the first hour of a new day. 
"Great in the sight of the Lord," he must be a Nazarite, 
abstaining wholly from " wine and strong drink "the 
two Greek words including all intoxicants, however 
made. " Filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's 
womb " that original bias or propensity to evil, if not 
obliterated, yet more than neutralized he shall be the 
Elijah (in spirit and in power) of Malachi's prophecy, 
turning many of Israel's children "to the Lord their 
God." "Going before Him" and the antecedent of 
" Him" must be "the Lord their God" of the preceding 
verse, so early is the purple of Divinity thrown around 
the Christ he " shall turn the hearts of fathers to their 
children," restoring peace and order to domestic life 
and the " disobedient " he shall incline " to walk in the 
wisdom of the just " (R.V.), bringing back the feet that 
have erred and slipped to "the paths of uprightness/ 1 
which are the " ways of wisdom." In short, he shall 
be the herald, making ready a people prepared for the 
Lord, running before the Royal chariot, proclaiming the 
coming One, and preparing His way, then leaving his 
own little footprints to disappear, thrown up in the 
chariot-dust of Him who was greater and mightier 
than he. 

We can easily understand, even if we may not 
apologize for, the incredulity of Zacharias. There are 
crises in our life when, under profound emotion, 
Reason herself seems bewildered, and Faith loses her 
steadiness of vision. The storm of feeling throws the 
reflective powers into confusion, and thought becomes 


blurred and indistinct, and speech incoherent and wild. 
And such a crisis was it now, but intensified to the 
mind of Zacharias by all these additions of the super- 
natural. The vision, with its accessories of place and 
time, the message, so startling, even though so welcome, 
must necessarily produce a strange perturbation of soul ; 
and what surprise need there be that when the priest 
does speak it is in the lisping accents of unbelief? 
Could it well have been otherwise? Peter "wist not 
"that it was true which was done by the angel, but thought 
he saw a vision ; " and though Zacharias has none of 
these doubts of unreality it is to him no dream of the 
moment's ecstasy still he is not yet aware of the rank 
and dignity of his angel-visitant, while he is perplexed 
at the message, which so directly contravenes both 
reason and experience. He does not doubt the Divine 
power, let it be observed, but he does seek for a sign 
that the angel speaks with Divine authority. " Where- 
by shall I know this ? " he asks, reminding us by his 
question of Jacob's " Tell me thy name." The angel 
replies, in substance, "You ask whereby you may know 
this; that is, you wish to know by whose authority 
I declare this message to you. Well, I am Gabriel, 
that stand in the presence of God ; and I was sent to 
speak unto you, and to bring you these good tidings. 
And since you ask for a sign, an endorsement of my 
message, you shall have one. I put the seal of silence 
upon your lips, and you shall not be able to speak 
until the day when these things shall come to pass, 
because you believed not my words." Then the vision 
ends ; Gabriel returns to the songs and anthems of the 
skies, leaving Zacharias to carry, in awful stillness of 
soul, this new "secret of the Lord." 

This infliction of dumbness upon Zacharias has 

i. 5-25, 57-80.] THE MUTE PRIEST. 27 

generally been regarded as a rebuke and punishment 
for his unbelief; but if we refer to the parallel cases of 
Abraham and of Gideon, such is not Heaven's wonted 
answer to the request for a sign. We must understand 
it rather as the proof Zacharias sought, something at 
once supernatural and significant, that should help his 
stumbling faith. Such a sign, and a most effective one, 
it was. Unlike Gideon's dew, that would soon eva- 
porate, leaving nothing but a memory, this was ever 
present, ever felt, at least until faith was exchanged 
for sight. Nor was it dumbness simply, for the word 
(ver. 22) rendered "speechless" implies inability to 
hear as well as inability to speak; and this, coupled 
with the fact mentioned in ver. 62, that "they made 
signs to him" which they would scarcely have done 
could he have heard their voices compels us to sup- 
pose that Zacharias had suddenly become deaf as well 
as dumb. Heaven put the seal of silence upon his lips 
and ears, that so its own voice might be more clear and 
loud ; and so the profound silences of Zacharias' soul 
were but the blank spaces on which Heaven's sweet 
music was written. 

How long the interview with the angel lasted we 
cannot tell. It must, however, have been brief; for at 
a given signal, the stroke of the Magrephah, the atten- 
dant priest would re-enter the Holy Place, to light the 
two lamps that had been left unlighted. And here we 
must look for the "tarrying" that so perplexed the 
multitude, who were waiting outside, in silence, for the 
benediction of the incensing priest. Re-entering the 
Holy Place, the attendant finds Zacharias smitten as by 
a sudden paralysis speechless, deaf, and overcome by 
emotion. What wonder that the strange excitement 
makes them oblivious of time, and, for the moment, 


all-forgetful of their Temple duties ! The priests are 
in their places, grouped together on the steps leading 
up to the Holy Place ; the sacrificing priest has ascended 
the great brazen altar, ready to cast the pieces of the 
slain lamb upon the sacred fire; the Levites stand 
ready with their trumpets and their psalms all waiting 
for the priests who linger so long in the Holy Place. 
At length they appear, taking up their position on the 
top of the steps, above the rows of priests, and above 
the silent multitude. But Zacharias cannot pronounce 
the usual benediction to-day. The "Jehovah bless 
thee and keep thee" is unsaid; the priest can only 
"beckon" to them, perhaps laying his finger on the 
silent lips, and then pointing to the silent heavens to 
them indeed silent, but to himself all vocal now. 

And s'o the mute priest, after the days of his minis- 
tration are completed, returns to his home in the hill- 
country, to wait the fulfilment of the promises, and out 
of his deep silences to weave a song that should be 
immortal ; for the Benedictus, whose music girdles the 
world to-day, before it struck upon the world's ear and 
heart, had, through those quiet months, filled the hushed 
temple of his soul, lifting up the priest and the prophet 
among the poets, and passing down the name of 
Zacharias as one of the first sweet singers of the new 

And so the Old meets, and merges into the New; 
and at the marriage it is the speaking hands of the 
mute priest that join together the two Dispensations, as 
each gives itself to the other, never more to be put 
asunder, but to be "no longer twain, but one/ 7 one 
Purpose, one Plan, one Divine Thought, one Divine 



T TNLIKE modern church builders, St. Luke sets his 
v_J chancel by the porch. No sooner have we 
passed through the vestibule of his Gospel than we 
find ourselves within a circle of harmonies. On the 
one side are Zacharias and Simeon, the one chanting 
his Benedicttis y and the other his Nunc Dimittis. 
Facing them, as if in antiphon, are Elisabeth and 
Mary, the one singing her Beatitude, and the other her 
Magnificat; while overhead, in the frescoed and star- 
lighted sky," are vast multitudes of the heavenly host, 
enriching the Advent music with their Glorias. What 
means this grand irruption of song ? and why is 
St. Luke, the Gentile Evangelist, the only one who re- 
peats to us these Hebrew psalms ? At first it would 
seem as if their natural place would be as a prelude 
to St. Matthew's Gospel, which is the Gospel of the He- 
brews. But strangely enough, St. Matthew passes them 
by in silence, just as he omits the two angelic visions. 
St. Matthew is evidently intent on one thing. Beginning 
a New Testament, as he is, he seems especially anxious 
that there shall be no rent or even seam between the 
Old and the New ; and so, in his first pages, after giving/ 
us the genealogy, running the line of descent up/to 
Abraham, he laces up the threads of his narrative xwith 


the broken-off threads of the old prophecies, so that the 
written Word may be a vestment of the Incarnate 
Word, which shall be " without seam, woven from the 
top throughout." And so really the Advent hymns 
would not have suited St. Matthew's purpose. Their 
ring would not have been in accord with the tone of 
his story ; and had we found them in his first chapters, 
we should instinctively have felt that they were out 
of place, as if we saw a rose blossoming on a wide- 
spread oak. 

St. Luke, however, is portraying the Son of Man. 
Coming to redeem humanity, he shows how He was 
first born into that humanity, making His advent in a 
purely human fashion. And so the two conceptions 
form a fit beginning for his Gospel; while over the 
Divine Birth and Childhood he lingers reverently and 
long, paying it, however, only the homage Heaven had 
paid it before. Then, too, was there not a touch of 
poetry about our Evangelist ? Tradition has been 
almost unanimous in saying that he was a painter ; and 
certainly in the grouping of his figures, and his careful 
play upon the lights and shadows, we can discover 
traces of his artistic skill, in word-painting at any rate. 
His was evidently a soul attuned to harmonies, quick 
to discern any accordant or discordant strains. Nor 
must we forget that St. Luke's mind is open to certain 
occult influences, whose presence we may indeed detect, 
but whose power we are not able to gauge. As we 
have already seen, it was the manifold narratives of 
anonymous writers that first moved him to take up the 
pen of the historian ; and to those narratives we doubt- 
less owe something of the peculiar cast and colouring of 
St. Luke's story. It is with the Nativity that tradition 
would be most likely to take liberties. The facts of 


the Advent, strange enough in themselves, would at 
the hands of rumour undergo a process of developing, 
like the magnified and somewhat grotesque shadows of 
himself the traveller casts on Alpine mists. It was 
doubtless owing to these enlargements and distortions 
of tradition that St. Luke was led to speak of the 
Advent so fully, going into the minutiae of detail, and 
inserting, as is probable, from the Hebrew tone of 
these first two chapters, the account as given orally, 
or written, by some members of the Holy Family. 

It must be admitted that to some inquiring and 
honest minds these Advent psalms have been a diffi- 
culty, an enigma, if not a stumbling-block. As the 
bells that summon to worship half-deafen the ear of 
the worshipper on a too near approach, or they become 
merely a confused and unmeaning noise if he climbs 
up into the belfry and watches the swing of their 
brazen lips, so this burst of music in our third 
Gospel has been too loud for certain sensitive ears. 
It has shaken somewhat the foundations of their faith. 
They think it gives an unreality, a certain mythical 
flavour, to the story, that these four pious people, who 
have always led a quiet, prosaic kind of life, should 
now suddenly break out into impromptu songs, and 
when these are ended lapse again into complete silence, 
like the century plant, which throws .out a solitary 
blossom in the course of a hundred years. And so 
they come to regard these Hebrew psalms as an inter- 
polation, an afterthought, thrown into the story for 
effect. But let us not forget that we are dealing now 
with Eastern mind, which is naturally vivacious, 
imaginative, and highly poetical. Even our colder 
tongue, in this glacial period of nineteenth-century 
civilization, is full of poetry. The language of common 


every-day life to those who have ears to hear is full 
of tropes, metaphors, and parables. Take up the 
commonest words of daily speech, and put them to 
your ear, and they will sing like shells from the sea. 
There are whole poems in them epics, idylls, of every 
sort ; and let our colder speech get among the sweet 
influences of religion, and like the iceberg adrift in the 
Gulf Stream, it loses its rigidity and frigidity at once, 
melting in liquid, rhythmic measures, throwing itself 
away in hymns and jubilates. The fact is, the world is 
.full of music. As the Sage of Chelsea said, " See deep 
enough, and you see musically, the heart of Nature 
being everywhere music if you can only reach it." 
And it is so. You can touch nothing but there are 
harmonies slumbering within it, or itself is a stray note 
of some grander song. Dead wood from the forest, 
dead ore from the mine, dead tusks of the beast these 
are the ft base things " that strike our music ; and only 
put a mind within them, and a living soul with a living 
touch before them, and you have songs and anthems 
without number. 

But to Eastern minds poetry was a sort of native 
language. Its inspiration was in the air. Their ordi- 
nary speech was ornate and efflorescent, throwing 
itself out in simile and hyperbole. It only needed 
some small excitement, and they fell naturally into the 
couplet form of utterance. Even to-day the children 
swing under the mulberry-trees to songs and choruses ; 
hucksters extol their wares in measured verse ; and the 
Bethany fruit-girl sings in the market, " O lady, take 
of our fruit, without money and without price : it is 
yours ; take 'all that you will " ! And so it need not 
surprise us, much less trouble us, that Simeon and 
Elisabeth, Zacharias and Mary, should each speak in 


measured cadences. Their speech blossomed with 
flowers of rhetoric, just as naturally as their hills were 
ablaze with daisies and anemones. Besides, they were 
now under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 
We read, " Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost ; " 
and again, Zacharias was " filled with the Holy Ghost ; " 
Simeon " came in the Spirit into the Temple ; " while 
Mary now seemed to live in one conscious, constant 
inspiration. It is said that " a poet is born, not made ; " 
and if he be not thus " free-born" no " great sum," 
either of gold or toil, will ever pass him up within the 
favoured circle. And the same is true of the poet's 
creations. Sacred hymns are not the product of the 
unaided intellect. They do not come at the bidding of 
any human will. They are inspirations. There is the 
overshadowing of the Holy Spirit in their conception. 
The human mind, heart, and lips are but the instru- 
ment, a kind of ^Eolian lyre, played upon by the Higher 
Breath, which comes and goes how, the singer himself 
can never tell ; for 

11 In the song 
The singer has been lost." 

It was when " filled with the Spirit" that Bezaleel put 
into his gold and silver the thoughts of God ; it was when 
the Spirit of God came upon him that Balaam took up 
his parable, putting into stately numbers Israel's for- 
ward march and endless victories. -And so the sacred 
psalm is the highest type of inspiration ; it is a voice 
from no earthly Parnassus, but from the *Mount of God 
itself -the nearest approach to the celestial harmo- 
nies, the harmonies of that city whose very walls are 
poetry, and whose gates are praise. 

And so, after all, it was but fitting and perfectly 
natural that the Gospel that Heaven had been so long time 



preparing should break upon the world amid the har- 
monies of music. Instead of apologizing for its presence, 
as if it were but an interlude improvised for the occa- 
sion, we should have noted and mourned its absence, 
as when one mourns for " the sound of a voice that is 
still." When the ark of God was brought up from 
Baale Judah it was encircled with one wide wreath of 
music, a travelling orchestra of harps and psalteries, 
castanets and cymbals ; and as now that Ark of all the 
promises is borne across from the Old to the New Dis- 
pensation, as the promise becomes a fulfilment, and 
the hope a realization, shall there not be the voice of 
song and gladness ? Our sense of the fitness of things 
expects it ; Heaven's law of the harmonies demands 
it ; and had there not been this burst of praise and 
song, we should have listened for the very stones to 
cry out, rebuking the strange silence. But the voice 
was not silent. The singers were there, in their places ; 
and they sang, not because they would, but because 
they must. A heavenly pressure, a sweet constraint, 
was upon them. If Wealth lays down her tribute of 
gold, with frankincense and myrrh, Poetry weaves for 
the Holy Child her beautiful songs, and crowns Him 
with her fadeless amaranth ; and so around the earthly 
cradle of the Lord, as around His heavenly throne, 
we have angelic songs, and "the voices of harpers, 
harping with their harps." 

Turning now to the four Gospel-psalmists not, 
however, to analyze, but to listen to their song we 
meet first with Elisabeth. This aged daughter of 
Aaron, and wife of Zacharias, as we have seen, resided 
somewhere in the hill-country of Judaea, in their quiet, 
childless home. Righteous, blameless, and devout, 
religion to her was no mere form ; it was her life. 


The Temple services, with which she was closely 
associated, were to her no cold clatter of dead rites ; 
they were realities, full of life and full of music, as 
her heart had caught their deeper meaning. But the 
Temple, while it attracted her thoughts and hopes, did 
not enclose them ; its songs and services were to her 
but so many needles, swinging round on their marble 
pivot, and pointing beyond to the Living God, the God 
who dwelt not in temples made with hands, but who, 
then as now, inhabits the purified temple of the heart. 
Long past the time when motherly hopes were possible, 
the fretting had subsided, and her spirit had become, 
first acquiescent, then quiescent. But these hopes had 
been miraculously rekindled, as she slowly read the 
vision of the Temple front the writing-table of her 
dumb husband. The shadow of her dial had gone 
backward; and instead of its being evening, with 
gathering shadows and ever-lessening light, she found 
herself back in the glow of the morning, her whole life 
lifted to a higher level. She was to be the mother, if 
not of the Christ, yet of His forerunner. And so the 
Christ was near at hand, this was certain , and she had 
the secret prophecy and promise of His advent. And 
Elisabeth finds herself exalted borne up, as it were, 
into Paradise, among visions and such swells of 
hosannas that she cannot utter them; they are too 
sweet and too deep for her shallow words. Was it not 
this, the storm of inward commotion, that drove her to 
hide herself for the five months ? Heaven has come so 
near to her, such thoughts and visions fill her mind, 
that she cannot bear the intrusions and jars of earthly 
speech ; and Elisabeth passes into a voluntary seclusion 
and silence, keeping strange company with the dumb and 
deaf Zacharias. 


At length the silence is broken by the unexpected 
appearance of her Nazareth relative. Mary, fresh from 
her hasty journey, " entered into the house of Zacharias 
and saluted Elisabeth." It is a singular expression, and 
evidently denotes that the visit of the Virgin was alto- 
gether unlocked for. There is no going out to meet 
the expected guest, as was common in Eastern hospi- 
talities ; there was even no welcome by the gate ; but 
like an apparition, Mary passes within, and salutes the 
surprised Elisabeth, who returns the salutation, not, 
however, in any of the prescribed forms, but in a 
benediction of measured verse : 

" Blessed art thou among women, 
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb ! 
And whence is this to me, 

That the mother of my Lord should come unto me ? 
For, behold, when the voice of thy salutation came into mine ears 
The babe leaped in my womb for joy. 
And blessed is she that believed, 

For there shall be a fulfilment of the things which have been spoken 
to her from the Lord." 

The whole canticle and it is Hebrew poetry, as its 
parallelisms and strophes plainly show is one apos- 
trophe to the Virgin. Striking the key-note in its 
" Blessed art thou," the " thou " moves on, distinct 
and clear, amid all variations, to the end, reaching its 
climax in its central phrase, u The mother of my Lord." 
As one hails the morning star, not so much for its own 
light as for its promise of the greater light, the da} r - 
spring that is behind it, so Elisabeth salutes the morning 
star of the new dawn, at the same time paying homage 
to the Sun, whose near approach the star heralds. And 
why is Mary so blessed among women ? Why should 
Elisabeth, forgetting the dignity of years, bow so defer- 
entially before her youthful relative, crowning her 


with a song? Who has informed her of the later 
revelation at Nazareth ? It is not necessary to sup- 
pose that Elisabeth, in her seclusion, had received any 
corroborative vision, or even that she had been super- 
naturally enlightened. Had she not the message the 
angel delivered to Zacharias ? and was not that enough ? 
Her son was to be the Christ's forerunner, going ; as the 
angel said, before the face of " the Lord." Three times 
had the angel designated the Coming One as "the 
Lord," and this was the word she had carried with her 
into her seclusion. What it meant she did not fully 
understand ; but she knew this, that it was He of whom 
Moses and the prophets had written, the Shiloh, the 
Wonderful; and as she put together the detached 
Scriptures, adding, doubtless, some guesses of her own, 
the Christ grew as a conception of her mind and the 
desire of her heart into such colossal proportions that 
even her own offspring was dwarfed in comparison, 
and the thoughts of her own maternity became, in the 
rush of greater thoughts, only as the stray eddies of the 
stream. That such was the drift of her thoughts during 
the five quiet months is evident ; for now, taught of the 
Holy Ghost that her kinswoman is to be the mother of 
the expected One, she greets the unborn Christ with her 
lesser Benedictus. Like the old painters, she puts her 
aureole of song around the mother's head, but it is easy 
to see that the mother's honours are but the far-off 
reflections from the Child. Is Mary blessed among 
women? it is not because of any wealth of native 
grace, but because of the fruit of her womb. Does 
Elisabeth throw herself right back in the shade, asking 
almost abjectly, " Whence is this to me ? " it is because, 
like the centurion, she feels herself unworthy that even 
the unborn " Lord " should come under her roof. And 


so, while this song is really an ode to the Virgin, it is 
virtually Elisabeth's salute of the Christ who is to be, 
a salute in which her own offspring takes part, for she 
speaks of his " leaping " in her womb, as if he were a 
participant in her joy, interpreting its movements as 
a sort of " Hail, Master !" The canticle thus becomes 
invested with a higher significance. Its words say 
much, but suggest more. It carries our thought out 
from the seen to the unseen, from the mother to the 
Holy Child, and Elisabeth's song thus becomes the 
earliest " Hosannah to the Son of David/' the first 
prelude to the unceasing anthems that are to follow. 

It will be observed that in the last line the song 
drops , out of the first and the second personals into 
the third. It is no longer the frequent "thy," " thou," 
"my," but "she:" "Happy is she that believed." 
Why is this change ? Why does she not end as she 
began " Happy art thou who hast believed " ? Simply 
because she is no longer speaking of Mary alone. She 
puts herself as well within this beatitude, and at the 
same time states a general law, how faith ripens into a 
harvest of blessedness. The last line thus becomes 
the " Amen " of the song. It reaches up among the 
eternal " Verilies," and sets them ringing. It speaks 
of the Divine faithfulness, out of which and within 
which human faith grows as an acorn within its cup. 
And who could have better right to sing of the blessed- 
ness of faith, and to introduce this New Testament 
grace not unknown in the Old Testament, but un- 
named as she who was herself such an exemplification 
of her theme ? How calmly her own heart reposed on 
the Divine word ! How before her far-seeing and 
foreseeing vision valleys were exalted, mountains and 
hills made low, that the way of the Lord might appear ! 


Elisabeth sees the unseen Christ, lays before Him the 
tribute of her song, the treasures of her affection and 
devotion ; even before the Magi had saluted the Child- 
King, Elisabeth's heart had gone out to meet Him with 
her hosannas, and her lips had greeted Him "My 
Lord." Elisabeth is thus the first singer of the New 
Dispensation ; and though her song is more a bud of 
poetry than the ripe, blossomed flower, enfolding rather 
than unfolding its hidden beauties, it pours out a 
fragrance sweeter than spikenard on the feet of the 
Coming One, while it throws around Him the purple of 
new royalties. 

Turning now to the song of Mary, our Magnificat, 
we come to poetry of a higher order. Elisabeth's 
introit was evidently spoken under intense feeling ; it 
was the music of the storm ; for " she lifted up her 
voice with a loud cry." Mary's song, on the other 
hand, is calm, the hymn of the " quiet resting-place." 
There is no unnatural excitement now, no inward 
perturbation, half mental and half physical. Mary was 
perfectly self-possessed, as if the spell of some Divine 
" peace " were upon her soul ; and as Elisabeth's " loud 
cry " ceased, Mary " said " so it reads her response. 
But if the voice was lower, the thought was higher, 
more majestic in its sweep. Elisabeth's song was on 
the lower heights. "The mother of my Lord," this 
was its starting-place, and the centre around which its 
circles were described ; and though its wings beat now 
and again against the infinities, it does not attempt to 
explore them, but returns timidly to its nest. But 
Elisabeth's loftiest reach is Mary's starting-point ; her 
song begins where the song of Elisabeth ends. Strik- 
ing her key-note in the first line, "The Lord," this is 
her one thought, the Alpha and Omega of her psalm. 


We call it the Magnificat; it is a Te Deum, full of sug- 
gested d'oxologies. Beginning with the personal, as she 
is almost compelled to do by the intense personality of 
Elizabeth's song, Mary hastes to gather up the eulogies 
bestowed upon herself, and to bear them forward to 
Him who merits all praise, as He is the Source of all 
blessing. Her soul ''magnifies the Lord/' not that she, 
by any weak words of hers, can add to His greatness, 
which is infinite, but even she may give the Lord a 
wider place within her thoughts and heart ; and who- 
ever is silent, her song shall make " the voice of His 
praise to be heard." Her spirit " hath rejoiced in God 
her Saviour," and why ? Has He not looked down on 
her low estate, and done great things for her ? " The 
bondmaid of the Lord," as she a second time calls 
herself, glorying in her bonds, such is her promotion 
and exaltation that all generations shall call her blessed. 
Then, with a beautiful effacement of self, which hence- 
forth is not even to be a mote playing in the sunshine, 
she sings of Jehovah His holiness, His might, His 
mercy, His faithfulness. 

Mary's song, both in its tone and language, belongs 
to the Old Dispensation. Thoroughly Hebraic, and all 
inlaid with Old Testament quotations, it is the swan- 
song of Hebraism. There is not a single phrase, 
perhaps not a single word, that bears a distinctive 
Christian stamp ; for the " Saviour " of the first strophe 
is the " Saviour " of the Old Testament, and not of the 
New, with a national rather than an evangelical mean- 
ing. The heart of the singer is turned to the past 
rather than to the future. Indeed, with the solitary 
exception, how all generations shall call her blessed, 
there is no passing glimpse into the future. Instead of 
speaking of the Expected One, and blessing " the fruit 


of her womb/' her song does not even mention Him. 
She tells how the Lord hath done great things for her, 
but what those " great things " are she does not say ; 
she might, as far as her own song tells us, be simply 
a later Miriam, singing of some family or personal 
deliverance, a salvation which was one of a thousand. 
A true daughter of Israel, she dwells among her own 
people, and her very broadest vision sees in her off- 
spring no world-wide blessing, only a Deliverer for 
Israel, His servant. Does she speak of mercy ? it is 
not that wider mercy that like a sea laves every shore, 
bearing on its still bosom a redeemed humanity ; it is 
the narrower mercy " toward Abraham and his seed for 
ever.' 7 JVlary recognizes the^umtyjof thejGodhead, but 
she does not "recognize the unity, the brotherhood of 
man. Her thought goes back to "our fathers, 7 ' but 
there it halts ; the shrunken sinew of Hebrew thought 
could not cross the prior centuries, to find the world's 
common father in Paradise. But in saying this we do 
not depreciate Mary's song. It is, and ever will be, the 
Magnificatj great in its theme, and great in its concep- 
tion. Following the flight of Hannah's song, and mak- 
ing use of its wings at times, it soars far above, and 
sweeps far beyond its original. Not even David sings 
of Jehovah in more exalted strains. The holiness of 
God, the might supreme above all powers, the faithful- 
ness that cannot forget, and that never fails to fulfil, 
the Divine -choice and exaltation of the lowly these 
four chief chords of the Hebrew Psalter Mary strikes 
with a touch that is sweet as it is clear. 

Mary sang of God ; she did not sing of the Christ. 
Indeed, how could she ? The Christ to be was part of 
her own life, part of herself ; how could she sing His 
praise without an appearance of egotism and self-gratu- 


lation ? There are times when silence is more eloquent 
than speech ; and Mary's silence about the Christ was 
but the silence of the winged cherubim, as they bend 
over the ark, beholding and feeling a mystery they can 
neither know nor tell. It was the hush inspired by 
a near and glorious presence. And so the Magnificat, 
while it tells us nothing of the Christ, swings our 
thoughts around towards Him, sets us listening for 
His advent ; and Mary's silence is but the setting for 
the Incarnate WORD. 

The song of Zacharias follows that of Mary, not 
only in the order of time, but also in its sequence of 
thought. It forms a natural postlude to the Magnificat, 
while both are but different parts of one song, this 
earliest " Messiah." It is something remarkable that 
our first three Christian hymns should have their birth 
in the same nameless city of Judah, in the same house, 
and probably in the same chamber ; for the room, 
which now is filled with the priest's relatives, and 
where Zacharias breaks the long silence with his pro- 
phetic Benedictus, is doubtless the same room where 
Elisabeth chanted her greeting, and Mary sang her 
Magnificat. The song of Mary circled about the 
throne of Jehovah, nor could she leave that throne, 
even to tell the great things the Lord had done for 
her. Zacharias, coming down from his mount of vision 
and of silence, gives us a wider outlook into the 
Divine purpose. He sings of the " salvation " of the 
Lord ; and salvation, as it is the key-note of the heavenly 
song, is the key-note of the Benedictus. Does he bless 
the Lord, the God of Israel ? it is because He has 
" visited " (or looked upon) " His people, and wrought 
redemption for " them ; it is because He has provided 
an abundant salvation, or a "horn of salvation," as 


he calls it. Has God remembered His covenant, " the 
oath He sware unto Abraham"? has He "shown 
mercy towards their fathers " ? that mercy and faithful- 
ness are seen in this wonderful salvationa salvation 
" from their enemies," and "from the hand of all that 
hate " them. Is his child to be " the prophet of the 
Most High," going " before the face of the Lord/' and 
making " ready His ways " ? it is that he may " give 
knowledge of" this " salvation," in " the remission of 
sins." Then the psalm ends, falling back on its key- 
note ; for who are they who " sit in darkness and the 
shadow of death," but a people lost ? And who is the 
Day-spring who visits them from on high, who shines 
upon their darkness, turning it into day, and guiding 
their lost feet into the way of peace, but the Redeemer, 
the Saviour, whose 'name is " Wonderful w ? And so 
the Bcnedictus, while retaining the form and the very 
language of the Old, breathes the spirit of the New 
Dispensation. It is a fragrant breeze, blowing off from 
the shores of a new, and now near world, a world 
already seen and possessed by Zacharias in the anti- 
cipations of faith. The Saviour whose advent the 
inspired priest proclaims is no mere national deliverer, 
driving back those eagles of Rome, and rebuilding the 

throne of his father David. He might be all that 

for even prophetic vision had not sweep of the whole 
horizon; it only saw the little segment of the circle 
that was Divinely illumined but to Zacharias He was 
more, a great deal more. He was a Redeemer as well 
as Deliverer; and a "redemption" for it was a 
Temple word meant a price laid down, something 
given. The salvation of which Zacharias speaks is not 
simply a deliverance from our political enemies, and 
from the hand of all that hate us. It was a salvation 


higher, broader, deeper than that, a " salvation " that 
reached to the profound depths of the human soul, and 
that sounded its jubilee there, in the remission of sin 
and deliverance from sin. Sin was the enemy to be 
vanquished and destroyed, and the shadow of death 
was but the shadow of sin. And Zacharias sings 
of this great redemption that leads to salvation, while 
the salvation leads into the Divine peace, to " holiness 
and righteousness," and a service that is " without 


The ark of Israel was borne by four of the sons of 
Kohath; and here this ark of song and prophecy is 
borne of four sweet singers, the sexes dividing the 
honours equally. We have listened to the songs of 
three, and have seen how they follow each other in 
a regular, rhythmic succession, the thought moving 
forward and outward in ever-widening circles. Where 
is the fourth ? and what is the burden of his song ? 
It is heard within the precincts of the Temple, as the 
parents bring the Child Jesus, to introduce Him to 
the visible sanctities of religion, and to consecrate Him 
to the Lord. It is the Nunc Dimittis of the aged 
Simeon. He too sings of " salvation," " Thy salvation " 
as he calls it. It is the " consolation of Israel " he 
has looked for so ardently and so long, and which the 
Holy Ghost had assured him he should behold before 
his promotion to the higher temple. But the vision 
of Simeon was wider than that of Zacharias, as that 
in turn was wider and clearer than the vision of Mary. 
Zacharias saw the spiritual nature of this near salvation, 
and he described it in words singularly deep and 
accurate ; but its breadth he did not seem to realize. 
The theocracy was the atmosphere in which he lived 
and moved; and even his vision was theocratic, and 


so somewhat narrow. His Benedictus was for the " God 
of Israel," and the "redemption" he sang was "for 
His people." The "horn of salvation" is "for us;" 
and all through his psalm these first personal pronouns 
are frequent and emphatic, as if he would still insulate 
this favoured people, and give them a monopoly even 
of " redemption." The aged Simeon, however, stands 
on a higher Pisgah. His is the nearer and the clearer 
vision. Standing as he does in the Court of the 
Gentiles, and holding in his arms the Infant Christ, 
"the Lord's Christ," he sees in Him a Saviour for 
humanity, " the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin 
of the world." Still, as ever, " the glory of God's 
people Israel," but likewise " a light for the unveiling 
of the Gentiles." Like the sentry who keeps watch 
through the night till the sunrise, Simeon has been 
watching and longing for the Day-spring from on high, 
reading from the stars of promise the wearing of the 
night, and with the music of fond hopes " keeping 
his heart awake till dawn of morn." Now at length 
the consummation, which is the consolation, comes. 
Simeon sees in the Child Jesus the world's hope and 
Light, a salvation " prepared before the face of all 
people." And seeing this, he sees all he desires. 
Earth can give no brighter vision, no deeper joy, and 
all his request is 

" Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart, O Lord, 
According to Thy word, in peace ; 
For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation." 

And so the four psalms of the Gospels form in 
reality but one song, the notes rising higher and still 
higher, until they reach the very pinnacle of the new 
temple God's purpose and plan of redemption ; that 


temple whose altar is a cross, and whose Victim is " the 
Lamb slain from the foundation of the world ; " that 
temple where courts and dividing-lines all disappear ; 
where the Holiest of all lies open to a redeemed 
humanity, and Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, old 
and young, are alike " kings and priests unto God." 
And so the Gospel psalms throw back, as it were, in a 
thousand echoes, the Glorias of the Advent angels, as 
they sing 

" Glory to God in the highest, 
And on earth peaca." 

And what is this but earth's prelude or rehearsal for 
the heavenly song, as all nations, and kindreds, and 
peoples, and tongues, falling down before the Lamb in 
the midst of the throne, sing, "Salvation unto our 
God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the 



THE Beautiful Gate of the Jewish Temple opened 
into the " Court of the Women " so named from 
the fact that they were not allowed any nearer approach 
towards the Holy Place. And as we open the gate of 
the third Gospel we enter the Court of the Women ; 
for more than any other Evangelist, St. Luke records 
their loving and varied ministries. Perhaps this is 
owing to his profession, which naturally would bring 
him into more frequent contact with feminine life. Or 
perhaps it is a little Philippian colour thrown into his 
Gospel ; for we must not forget that St. Luke had been 
left by the Apostle Paul at Philippi, to superintend the 
Church that had been cradled in the prayers of the 
" river-side " women. It may be a tinge of Lydia's 
purple; or to speak more broadly and more literally, 
it may be the subtle, unconscious influences of that 
Philippian circle that have given a certain feminity to 
our third Gospel. St. Luke alone gives us the psalms 
of the three women, Anna, Elisabeth, and Mary; he 
alone gives us the names of Susanna and Joanna, who 
ministered to Christ of their substance ; he alone gives 
us that Galilean idyll, where the nameless " woman " 
bathes His feet with tears, and at the same time rains 
a hot rebuke on the cold civilities of the Pharisee, 


Simon ; he alone tells of the widow of Zarephath, who 
welcomed and saved a prophet men were seeking to 
slay ; he alone tells us of the widow of Nam, of the 
woman bent with infirmity, and of the woman grieving 
over her lost piece of silver. And as St. Luke opens 
his Gospel with woman's tribute of song, so in his last 
chapter he paints for us that group of women, constant 
amid man's inconstancies, coming ere the break of day, 
to wrap around the body of the dead Christ the precious 
and fragrant offering of devotion. So, in this Paradise 
Restored, do Eve's daughters roll back the reproach of 
their mother. But ever first and foremost among the 
women of the Gospels we must place the Virgin 
Mother, whose character and position in the Gospel 
story we are now to consider. 

We need not stay to discuss the question perhaps 
we ought not to stay even to give it a passing notice 
whether there might have been an Incarnation even 
had there been no sin. It is not an impossible, it is 
not an improbable supposition, that the Christ would 
have come into the world even had man kept his first 
estate of innocence and bliss. But then it would have 
been the " Christ" simply, and not Jesus Christ. He 
would have come into the world, not as its Redeemer, 
but as the Son and Heir, laying tribute on all its 
harvests ; He would have come as the flower and 
crown of a perfected humanity, to show the possibilities 
of that humanity, its absolute perfections. But leaving 
the " might-have-beens," in whose tenuous spaces there 
is room for the nebulae of fancies and of guesses with- 
out number, let us narrow our vision within the horizon 
of the real, the actual 

Given the necessity for an Incarnation, there are two 
modes in which that Incarnation may be brought about 


by creation, or by birth. The first Adam came into 
the world by the creative act of God. Without the 
intervention of second causes, or any waiting for the 
slow lapse of time, God spake, and it was done. Will 
Scripture repeat itself here, in the new Genesis ? and 
will the second Adam, coming into the world to repair 
the ruin wrought by the first, come as did the first ? 
We can easily conceive such an advent to be possible ; 
and if we regarded simply the analogies of the case, 
we might even suppose it to be probable. But how 
different a Christ it would have been ! He might still 
have been bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh ; He 
might have spoken the same truths, in the same speech 
and tone; but He must have lived apart from the world. 
It would not be our humanity that He wore ; it would 
only be its shadow, its semblance, playing before our 
minds like an illusion. No, the Messiah must not be 
simply a second Adam ; He must be the Son of Man, 
and He cannot become Humanity's Son except by a 
human birth. Any other advent, even though it had 
satisfied the claims of reason, would have failed to 
satisfy those deeper voices of the heart And so, on 
the first pages of Scripture, before Eden's gate is shut 
and locked by bolts of flame, Heaven signifies its 
intention and decision. The coming One, who shall 
bruise the serpent's head, shall be the woman's " Seed ''* 
the Son of woman, that so He may become more 
truly the Son of Man; while later a strange expres- 
sion finds its way into the sacred prophecy, how "a 
Virgin shall conceive, and bear a son." It is true 
these words primarily might have a local meaning and 
fulfilment though what that narrower meaning was 
no one can tell with any approach to certainty; but 
looking at the singularity of the expression, and coupling 



it with the story of the Advent, we can but see in it 
a deeper meaning and a wider purpose. Evidently it 
was that the virgin-conception might strike upon the 
world's ear and become a familiar thought, and that 
it might throw backwards across the pages of the Old 
Testament the shadow of the Virgin Mother. We have 
already seen how the thought of a Messianic mother- 
hood had dropped deep within the heart of the Hebrew 
people, awaking hopes, and prayers, and all sorts of 
beautiful dreams dreams, alas ! that vanished with the 
years, and hopes that blossomed but to fade. But now 
the hour is coming, that supreme hour for which the 
centuries have all been waiting. The forerunner is 
already announced, and in twelve short weeks he who 
loved to call himself a Voice will break the strange 
silence of that Judaean home. Whence will come his 
Lord, who shall be " greater than he " ? , Where shall 
we find the Mother-elect, for whom such honours have 
been reserved honours such as no mortal has ever 
yet borne, and as none will ever bear again ? St. 
Luke tells us, "Now in the sixth month the angel 
Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, 
named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose 
name was Joseph, of the house of David ; and the 
virgin's name was Mary " (R.V.). And so the Mother- 
designate takes her place in this firmament of Scrip- 
ture, silently and serenely as a morning star, which 
indeed she is ; for she shines in a borrowed splendour, 
taking her glories all from Him around whom she 
revolves, from Him who was both her Son and her 

It will be seen in the above verse how particular the 
Evangelist is in his topographical reference, putting a 
kind of emphasis upon the name which now appears 


for the first time upon the pages of Scripture. When 
we remember how Nazareth was honoured by the 
angel visit ; how it was, not the chance, but the chosen 
home of the Christ for thirty years ; how it watched and 
guarded the Divine Infancy, throwing into that life its 
powerful though unconscious influences, even as the 
dead soil throws itself forward and upward into each 
separate flower and farthest leaf; when we remember 
how it linked its own name with the Name of Jesus, 
becoming almost a part of it ; how it wrote its name 
upon the cross, then handing it down to the ages as 
the name and watchword of a sect that should conquer 
the world, we must admit that Nazareth is by no means 
"the least among the cities" of Israel And yet we 
search in vain through the Old Testament for the name 
of Nazareth. History, poetry, and prophecy alike pass 
it by in silence. And so the Hebrew mind, while 
rightly linking the expected One with Bethlehem, never 
associated the Christ with Nazareth. Indeed, its mo- 
ralities had become so questionable and proverbial 
that while the whole of Galilee was too dry a ground 
to grow a prophet, Nazareth was thought incapable of 
producing " any good thing," Was, then, the Nazareth 
chapter of the Christ-life an afterthought of the Divine 
Mind, like the marginal reading of an author's proof, 
put in to fill up a blank or to be a substitute for some 
erasure? Not so. It had been in the Divine Mind 
from the beginning; yea, it had been in the autho- 
rized text, though men had not read it plainly. It is 
St. Matthew who first calls our attention to it. Writing, 
as he does, mainly for Hebrew readers, he is constantly 
looping up his story with the Old Testament prophecies ; 
and speaking of the return from Egypt, he says they 
" came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth : that it 


might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, 
that He should be called a Nazarene." We said just 
now that the name of Nazareth was not found in the 
Old Testament. But if we do not find the proper 
name, we find the word which is identical with the 
name. It is now regarded by competent authorities as 
proved that the Hebrew name for Nazareth was Netser. 
Taking now this word in our mind, and turning to 
Isaiah xi. i, we read, '/And there shall come forth a 
shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch [Netser] 
out of his roots shall bear fruit : and the Spirit of the 
Lord shall rest upon Him/' Here, then, evidently, 
is the prophetic voice to which St. Matthew refers; 
and one little word the name of Nazareth becomes 
the golden link binding in one the Prophecies and the 

Returning to our main subject, it is to this secluded, 
and somewhat despised city of Nazareth the angel 
Gabriel is now sent, to announce the approaching birth 
of Christ. St. Luke, in his nominative way of speaking, 
says he came " to a Virgin betrothed to a man whose 
name was Joseph, of the house of David ; and the 
Virgin's name was Mary." It is difficult for us to form 
an unbiassed estimate of the character before us, as 
our minds are feeling the inevitable recoil from Roman 
assumptions. We are confused with the childish prattle 
of their Ave Marias; we are amused at their dogmas of 
Immaculate Conceptions and Ever Virginities ; we are 
surprised and shocked at their apotheosis of the Virgin, 
as they lift her to a throne practically higher than that 
of her Son, worshipped in devouter homage, suppli- 
cated with more earnest and more frequent prayers, 
and at the blasphemies of their Mariolatry, which 
make her supreme on earth and supreme in heaven. 


This undue exaltation of the Virgin Mother, which 
becomes an adoration pure and simple, sends our Protes- 
tant thought with a violent swing to the extreme of the 
other side, considerably over the line of the "golden 
mean." And so we find it hard to dissociate in our 
minds the Virgin Mother from these Marian assumptions 
and divinations; for which, however, she herself is in 
no way responsible, and against which she would be 
the first to protest. Seen only through these Romish 
haloes, and atmospheres highly incensed, her very name 
has been distorted, and her features, spoiled of all grace 
and sweet serenity, have ceased to be attractive. But 
this is not just. If Rome weights one scale with crowns, 
and sceptres, and piles of imperial purple, we need not 
load down the other with our prejudices, satires, and 
negations. Two wrongs will not make a right. It is 
neither on the crest of the wave, nor yet in the deep 
trough of the billows, that we shall find the mean sea- 
level, from which we can measure all heights, running 
out our lines even among the stars. Can we not find 
that mean sea-level now, hushing alike the voices of 
adulation and of depreciation ? Laying aside the tradi- 
tions of antiquity and the legends of scribulous monks, 
laying aside, too, the coloured glasses of our prejudice, 
with which we have been wont to protect our eyes from 
the glare of Roman suns, may we not get a true por- 
traiture of the Virgin Mother, in all the native natural- 
ness of Scripture ? We think we can. 

She comes upon us silently and suddenly, emerging 
from an obscurity whose secrets we cannot read. No 
mention is made of her parents; tradition only has 
supplied us with their names Joachim and Anna. But 
whether Joachim or not, it is certain that her father 
was of the tribe of Judah, and of the house of David. 



Having this fact to guide us, and also another fact, 
that Mary was closely related to Elisabeth though not 
necessarily her cousin who was of the tribe of Levi 
and a daughter of Aaron, then it becomes probable, at 
least, that the unnamed mother of the Virgin was of 
the tribe of Levi, and so the connecting-link between 
the houses of Levi and Judah a probability which' 
receives an indirect but strong confirmation in the fact 
that Nazareth was intimately connected with Jerusalem 
and the Temple, one of the cities selected as a residence 
of the priests. May we not, then, suppose that this 
unnamed mother of the Virgin was a daughter of one 
of the priests then residing at Nazareth, and that Mary's 
relatives on the mother's side some of them were 
also priests, going up at stated times to Jerusalem, to 
perform their " course " of Temple services ? It is cer- 
tainly a most natural supposition, and one, too, that 
will help to remove some subsequent difficulties in the 
story ; as, for instance, the journey of Mary to Judaea. 
Some honest minds have stumbled at that long journey 
of a hundred miles, while others have grown pathetic 
in their descriptions of that lonely pilgrimage of the 
Galilean Virgin. But it is neither necessary nor likely 
that Mary should take the journey alone. Her connec- 
tion with the priesthood, if our supposition be correct, 
would find her an escort, even among her own relatives, 
as least as far as Jerusalem; and since the priestly 
courses were half-yearly in their service, it would be 
just the time the " course of Abijah," in which Zacharias 
served, would be returning once again to their Judaean 
homes. It is only a supposition, it is true, but it. is a 
supposition that is extremely natural and more than 
probable ; and if we look through it, taking " Levi " 
and "Judah" as our binocular lenses, it carries a 


thread of light through otherwise dark places ; while 
throwing our sight forward, it brings distant Nazareth 
in line with Jerusalem and the " hill-country of Judaea." 
Betrothed to Joseph, who was of the royal line, and 
as some think, the legal heir to David's throne, Mary 
was probably not more than twenty years of age. 
Whether an orphan or not we cannot tell, though the 
silence of Scripture would almost lead us to suppose 
that she was. Papias, however, who was a disciple 
of St. John, states that she had two sisters Mary the 
wife of Cleophas, and Mary Salome the wife of Zebedee. 
If this be so and there is no reason why we should 
discredit the statement then Mary the Virgin Mother 
would probably be the eldest of the three sisters, the 
house-mother in the Nazareth home. Where it was 
that the angel appeared to her we cannot tell. Tradi- 
tion, with one of its random guesses, has fixed the spot 
in the suburbs, beside the fountain. But there is some- 
thing incongruous and absurd in the selection of such 
a place for an angelic appearance the public resort and 
lounge, where the clatter of feminine gossip was about 
as constant as the flow and sparkle of its waters. In- 
deed, the very form of the participle disposes of that 
tradition, for we read, " He came in unto her," implying 
that it was within her holy place of home the angel 
found her. Nor is there any need to suppose, as some 
do, that it was in her quiet chamber of devotion, where 
she was observing the stated hours of prayer. Celes- 
tials do not draw that broad line of distinction between 
so-called secular and sacred duties. To them " work " 
is but another form of " worship," and all duties to them 
are sacred, even when they lie among life's temporal, 
and so-called secular things. Indeed, Heaven reserves 
its highest visions, not for those quiet moments of still 


devotion, but for the hours of busy toil, when mind and 
body are given to the " trivial rounds " and the " com- 
mon tasks" of every-day life. Moses is at his shepherding 
when the bush calls him aside, with its tongues of fire ; 
Gideon is threshing out his wheat when God's angel 
greets him and summons him to the higher task ; and 
Zacharias is performing the routine service of his 
priestly office when Gabriel salutes him with the first 
voice of a New Dispensation. And so all the analogies 
would lead us to suppose that the Virgin was quietly 
engaged in her domestic duties, offering the sacrifice of 
her daily task, as Zacharias offered his incense of stacte 
and onycha, when Gabriel addressed her, " Hail, thou 
that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee " (R.V.). 
The Romanists, eager to accord Divine honours to the 
Virgin Mother as the dispenser of blessing and of grace, 
interpret the phrase, " Thou that art full of grace. 7 ' It 
is, perhaps, not an inapt rendering of the word, and is 
certainly more euphonious than our marginal reading 
" much graced ; " but when they make the " grace " an 
inherent, and not a derived grace, their doctrine slants 
off from all Scripture, and is opposed "to all reason. 
That the word itself gives no countenance to such an 
enthronement of Mary, is evident, for St. Paul makes 
use of the same word when speaking of himself and 
the Ephesian Christians (Eph. i. 6), where we render it 
"His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the 
Beloved." But criticism apart, never before had an 
angel so addressed a mortal, for even Daniel's " greatly 
beloved " falls below this Nazareth greeting. When 
Gabriel came to Zacharias there was not even a " Hail ; " 
it was simply a "Fear not," and then the message; but 
now he gives to Mary a " Hail " and two beatitudes 
besides: " Thou art highly favoured;" "the Lord is with 


thee." And do these words mean nothing ? Are they 
but a few heavenly courtesies whose only meaning is 
in their sound ? Heaven does not speak thus with 
random, unmeaning words. Its voices are true, and 
deep as they are true, never meaning less, but often 
more than they say. That the angel should so address 
her is certain proof that the Virgin possessed a peculiar 
fitness for the Divine honours she was now to receive 
honours which had been so long held back, as if in 
reserve for herself alone. It is only they who look 
heavenward who see heavenly things. There must be a 
heart aflame before the bush burns ; and when the bush 
is alight it is only " he who sees takes off his shoes." 

The glimpses we get of the Virgin are few and 
brief ; she is soon eclipsed if we may be allowed that 
shadowy word by the greater glories of her Son; 
but why should she be selected as the mother of the 
human Christ ? why should her life nourish His ? why 
should the thirty years be spent in her daily presence, 
her face being the first vision of awaking consciousness, 
as it" was in the last earthward look from the cross ? 
why all this, except that there was a wealth of beauty 
and of grace about her nature, a certain tinge of 
heavenliness that made it fitting the Messiah should 
be born of her rather than of any woman else ? As 
we have seen, the royal and the priestly lines meet in 
her, and Mary unites in herself all the dignity of the 
one with the sanctity of the other. With what delicacy 
and grace she receives the angel's message ! " Greatly 
troubled" at first not, however, like Zacharias, at the 
sight of the messenger, but at his message she soon 
recovers herself, and " casts in her mind what manner 
of salutation this might be." This sentence just de- 
scribes one prominent feature of her character, hei 


reflect! ve, reasoning mind. Sparing of words, except 
when under the inspiration of some Magnificat, she 
lived much within herself. She loved the companion- 
ship of her own thoughts, finding a certain music in 
their still monologue. When the shepherds made known 
the saying of the angel about this child, repeating the 
angelic song, perhaps, with sundry variations of their 
own, Mary is neither elated nor astonished. Whatever 
her feelings and they must have been profoundly 
moved she carefully conceals them. Instead of telling 
out her own deep secrets, letting herself drift out on the 
ecstasies of the moment, Mary is" silent, serenely quiet, 
unwilling that even a shadow of herself should dim the 
brightness of His rising. " She kept," so we read, " all 
these sayings, pondering them in her heart ; " or putting 
them together, as the Greek word means, and so forming, 
as in a mental mosaic, her picture of the Christ who was 
to be. And so, in later years, we read (ii. 51) how " His 
mother kept all these saying in her heart," gathering 
up the fragmentary sentences of the Divine Childhood 
and Youth, and hiding them, as a treasure peculiarly 
her own, in the deep, still chambers of her soul. And 
what those still chambers of her soul were, how heavenly 
the atmosphere that enswathed them, how hallowed by 
the Divine Presence, her Magnificat will show ; for that 
inspired psalm is but an opened window, letting the 
music pass without, as it throws the light within, 
showing us the temple of a quiet, devout, and thoughtful 

With what complacency and with what little surprise 
she received the angel's message ! The Incarnation 
does not come upon her as a new thought, a thought 
for which her mind cannot possibly find room, and 
human speech can weave no fitting dress. It disturbs 


neither her reason nor her faith. Versed in Scripture 
as she is, it comes rather as a familiar thought a 
heavenly dove, it is true, but gliding down within her 
mind in a perfect, because a heavenly naturalness. 
And when the angel announces that the " Son of the 
Most High," whose name shall be called Jesus, and 
who shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, 
shall be born of herself, there is no exclamation of 
astonishment, no word of .incredulity as to whether 
this can be, but simply a question as to the manner 
of its accomplishment: " How shall this be, seeing that 
I know not a man ? " The Christ had evidently been 
conceived in her mind, and cradled in her heart, even 
before He became a conception of her womb. 

And what an absolute self-surrender to the Divine 
purpose ! No sooner has the angel told her that the 
Holy Ghost shall come upon her, and the power of 
the Most High overshadow her, than she bows to the 
Supreme Will in a lowly, reverential acquiescence: 
" Behold, the handmaid [bondmaid] of the Lord ; be 
it unto me according to thy word." So do the human 
and the Divine wills meet and mingle. Heaven 
touches earth, comes down into it, that earth may 
evermore touch heaven, and indeed form part of It. 

The angel departs, leaving her alone with her great 
secret; and little by little it dawns upon her, as it 
could not have done at first, what this secret means 
for her. A great honour it is, a great joy it will be ; 
but Mary finds, as we all find, the path to heaven's 
glories lies through suffering ; the way into the wealthy 
place is " through the fire." How can she carry this 
great secret herself? and yet how can she tell it? 
Who will believe her report ? Will not these Naza- 
renes laugh at her story of the vision, except that 


the matter would be too grave for a smile ? It is her 
own secret yet, but it cannot be a secret long ; and 
then who can defend her, and ward off the inevitable 
shame ? Where can she find shelter from the venomed 
shafts that will be hurled from every side where, save 
in her consciousness of unsullied purity, and in the 
"shadow of the Highest"? Was it thoughts like 
these that now agitated her mind, deciding her to 
make the hasty visit to Elisabeth ? or was it that 
she might find sympathy and counsel in communion 
with a kindred soul, one that age had made wise, and 
grace made beautiful ? Probably it was both ; but in 
this journey we will not follow her now, except to see 
how her faith in God never once wavered. We have 
already listened to her sweet song ; but what a sublime 
faith it shows, that she can sing in face of this gather- 
ing storm, a storm of suspicion and of shame, when 
Joseph himself will seek to put her away, lest his 
character should suffer too ! But Mary believed, even 
though she felt and smarted. She endured " as seeing 
Him who is invisible." Coukl she not safely leave 
her character to Him ? Would not the Lord avenge 
His own elect ? Would not Divine Wisdom justify 
her child ? Faith and hope said " Yes ; " and Mary's 
soul, like a nightingale, trilled out her Magnificat when 
earth's light was disappearing, and the shadows were 
falling thick and fast on every side. 

It is on her return to Nazareth, after her three 
months' absence, that the episode occurs narrated by 
St. Matthew. It is thrown into the story almost by 
way of parenthesis, but it casts a vivid light on the 
painful experience through which she was now called 
to pass. Her prolonged absence, most unusual for 
one betrothed, was in itself puzzling ; but she returns 


to find only a scant welcome. She finds herself 
suspected of shame and sin, "the white flower of 
ner blameless life" dashed and stained with black 
aspersions. Even Joseph's confidence in her is shaken, 
so shaken that he must put her away and have the 
betrothal cancelled. And so the clouds darken about 
the Virgin; she is left almost alone in the sharp 
travail of her soul, charged with sin, even when she 
is preparing for the world a Saviour, and likely, un- 
less Heaven speedily interpose, to become an outcast, 
if not a martyr, thrown outside the circle of human 
courtesies and sympathies as a social leper. Like 
another heir of all the promises, she too is kd as 
a lamb to the slaughter, a victim bound, and all but 
sacrificed, upon the altar of the public conscience. But 
Heaven did intervene, even as it stayed the knife of 
Abraham. An angel appears to Joseph, throwing 
around the suspected one the mantle of unsullied 
innocence, and assuring him that her explanation, 
though passing strange, was truth itself. And so the 
Lord did avenge His own elect, stilling the babble 
of unfriendly tongues, restoring to her all the lost 
confidences, together with a wealth of added hopes 
and prospective honours. 

Not, however, out of Galilee must the Shiloh come, 
but out of Judah ; and not Nazareth, but Bethlehem 
Ephratah is the designated place of His coming forth 
who shall be the Governor and Shepherd of " My people 
Israel." What means, then, this apparent divergence 
of the Providence from the Prophecy, the whole drift 
of the one being northward, while the other points 
steadily to the south? It is only a seeming diver- 
gence, the backward flash of the wheel that all the time 
is moving steadily, swiftly forward. The Prophecy 


and the Providence are but the two staves of the ark, 
moving in different but parallel lines, and bearing 
between them the Divine purpose. Already the line 
is laid that links Nazareth with Bethlehem, the line of 
descent we call lineage; and now we see Providence 
setting in motion another force, the Imperial Will, which, 
moving along this line, makes the purpose a realization. 
Nor was it the Imperial Will only ; it was the Imperial 
Will acting through Jewish prejudices. These two 
forces, antagonistic, if not opposite, were the centrifugal 
and centripetal forces that kept the Divine Purpose 
moving in its appointed round and keeping Divine 
hours.- Had the registration decreed by Csesar been 
conducted after the Roman manner, Joseph and Mary 
would not have been required to go up to Bethlehem ; 
but when, out of deference to Jewish prejudice, the 
registration was made in the Hebrew mode, this com- 
pelled them, both being descendants of David, to go 
up to their ancestral city. It has been thought by 
some that Mary possessed some inherited property in 
Bethlehem ; and the narrative would suggest that there 
were other links that bound them to the city; for 
evidently they intended to make Bethlehem henceforth 
their place of residence, and they would have done so 
had not a Divine monition broken in upon their purpose 
(Matt. ii. 23). 

And so they move southward, obeying the mandate 
of Caesar, who now is simply the executor of the 
higher Will, the Will that moves silently but surely, 
back of all thrones, principalities, and powers. We 
will not attempt to gild the gold, by enlarging upon 
the story of the Nativity, and so robbing it of its sweet 
simplicity. The toilsome journey ; its inhospitable 
ending ; the stable and the manger ; the angelic sym-* 


phonies in the distance ; the adoration of the shepherds 
all form one sweet idyll, no word of which we can 
spare; and as the Church chants her Te Deum 
all down the ages this will not be one of its lowest 
strains : 

" When Thou tookest upon Thee to deliver man 
Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb." 

And so the Virgin becomes the Virgin Mother, 
graduating into motherhood amid the acclamations of 
the sky, and borne on to her exalted honours in the 
sweep of Imperial decrees. 

After the Nativity she sinks back into a second 
a far-off second place, for " the greater glory doth 
dim the less;" and twice only does her voice break 
the silence of the thirty years. We hear it first in the 
Temple, as, in tones tremulous with anxiety and sorrow, 
she asks, " Son, why hast Thou thus dealt with us ?- 
Behold, Thy father and I sought Thee sorrowing." 
The whole incident is perplexing, and if we read it 
superficially, not staying to read between the lines, it 
certainly places the mother in anything but a favourable 
light. Let us observe, however, that there was no neces- 
sity that the mother should have made this pilgrimage, 
and evidently she had made it so that she might be near 
her precious charge. But now she strangely loses 
sight of Him, and goes even a day's journey without 
discovering her loss. How is this ? Has she suddenly 
grown careless ? or does she lose both herself and her 
charge in the excitements of the return journey? 
Thoughtfulness, as we have seen, was a characteristic 
feature of her life. Hers was "the harvest of the 
quiet eye," and her thoughts centred not on herself, 
but on her Divine Son ; He was her Alpha and Omega, 


her first, her last, her only thought. It is altogether 
outside the range of possibilities that she now could 
be so negligent of her maternal duties, and so we are 
compelled to seek for our explanation elsewhere. May 
we not find it in this ? The parents had left Jerusalem 
earlier in the day, arranging for the child Jesus to 
follow with another part of the same company, which, 
leaving later, would overtake them at their first camp. 
But Jesus not appearing when the second company 
starts, they imagine that He has gone on with the 
first company, and so proceed without Him. This 
seems the only probable solution of the difficulty ; at 
any rate it makes plain and perfectly natural what 
else is most obscure and perplexing. Mary's mistake, 
however and it was not her fault opens to us a page 
in the sealed volume of the Divine Boyhood, letting us 
hear its solitary voice " Wist ye not that I must be 
in My Father's house ? " 

We see the mother again at Cana, where she is an 
invited and honoured guest at tht marriage, moving 
about among the servants with a certain quiet authority, 
and telling her Divine Son of the breakdown in the 
hospitalities : " They have no wine." We cannot now 
go into details, but evidently there was no distancing 
reserve between the mother and her Son. She goes 
to Him naturally ; she speaks to Him freely and 
frankly, as any widow would speak to the son on 
whom she leaned. Nay, she seems to know, as by a 
sort of intuition, of the superhuman powers that are 
lying dormant in that quiet Son of hers, and she so 
correctly reads the horoscope of Heaven as to expect 
this will be the hour and the place of their manifesta- 
tion. Perhaps her mind did not grasp the true Divinity 
of her Son indeed, it could not have done so before * 


the Resurrection but that He is the M-essiah she has 
no doubt, and so, strong in her confidence, she says to 
the servants, " Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." 
And her faith must have been great indeed, when it 
required a "whatsoever" to measure it. Some have 
thought they could detect a tinge of impatience and a 
tone of rebuke in the reply of Jesus; and doubtless 
there is a little sharpness in our English rendering of 
it. It does sound to our ears somewhat unfilial and 
harsh. But to the Greeks the address " Woman " was 
both courteous and respectful, and Jesus Himself uses 
it in that last tender salute from the cross. Certainly, 
she did not take it as a rebuke, for one harsh word, 
like the touch on the sensitive plant, would have thrown 
her back into silence; whereas she goes off directly to 
the servants with her "whatsoever." 

We get one more brief glimpse of her at Capernaum, 
as she and her other sons come out to Jesus to urge 
Him to desist from His long speaking. It is but a 
simple narrative, but it serves to throw a side-light on 
that home-life now removed to Capernaum. It shows 
us the thoughtful, loving mother, as, forgetful of herself 
and full of solicitude for Him, who, she fears, will tax 
Himself beyond His strength, she comes out to per- 
suade Him home. But what is the meaning of that 
strange answer, and the significant gesture ? " Mother/' 
" brethren " ? It is as if Jesus did not understand the 
words. They are something He has now outgrown, 
something He must now lay aside, as He gives Himself 
to the world at large. As there comes a time in the 
life of each when the mother is forsaken left, that he 
may follow a higher call, and be himself a man so 
Jesus now steps out into a world where Mary's heart, 
indeed, may still follow, but a world her mind may not 



enter. The earthly relation is henceforth to be over- 
shadowed by the heavenly. The Son of Mary grows 
into the Son of man, belonging now to no special one, 
but to humanity at large, finding in all, even in us, 
who do the will of the Father in heaven, a brother, a 
sister, a mother. Not that Jesus forgets her. Oh, no ! 
Even amid the agonies of the cross He thinks of her ; 
He singles her out among the crowd, bespeaking for 
her a place the place He Himself has filled in the 
heart of His nearest earthly friend ; and amid the 
prayer for His murderers, and the " ELOI, ELOI " of a 
terrible forsaking, He says to the Apostle of love, 
"Behold thy mother," and to her, "Behold thy son." 

And so the Virgin Mother takes her place in the 
focal point of all the histories. Through no choice, 
no conceit or forwardness of her own, but by the grace 
of God and by an inherent fitness, she becomes 
the connecting-link between earth and heaven. And 
throwing, as she does, her unconscious shadow back 
within the Paradise Lost, and forward through the 
Gospels to the Paradise Regained, shall we not " mag- 
nify the Lord" with her? shall we not "magnify the 
Lord" for her, as, with all the generations, we "call 
her blessed"? 



THE Gospel of St. Mark omits entirely the Nativity, 
passing at once to the words and miracles of His 
public ministry. St. John, too, dismisses the Advent 
and the earlier years of the Divine Life with one 
solitary phrase, how the Word, which in the beginning 
was with God and was God, ft became flesh and dwelt 
among us " (i. 14). St. Luke, however, whose Gospel 
is the Gospel of the Humanity, lingers reverently over 
the Nativity, throwing a variety of side-lights upon the 
cradle of the Holy Child. Already has he shown how 
the Roman State prepared the cradle of the Infancy, 
and how Caesar Augustus unconsciously wrought out 
the purpose of God, the breath of his imperial decree 
being but part of a higher inspiration ; and now he 
proceeds to show how the shepherds of Judaea bring the 
greetings of the Hebrew world, the wave-sheaf of the 
ripening harvests' of homage which yet will be laid, by 
Jefc" and Gentile alike, at the feet of Him who was Son 
of David and Son of man. 

It is generally supposed that these anonymous 
shepherds were residents of Bethlehem, and tradition 
has fixed the exact spot where they were favoured with 
this Advent Apocalypse, about a thousand paces from 


the modern village. It is a historic fact that there was 
a tower near that site, called Eder, or " the Tower of 
the Flock/ 7 around which were pastured the flocks 
destined for the Temple sacrifice ; but the topography 
of ver. 8 is purposely vague. The expression " in that 
same country," written by one who both in years and 
in distance was far removed from the events recorded, 
would describe any circle within the radius of a few 
miles from Bethlehem as its centre, and the very 
vagueness of the expression seems to push back the 
scene of the Advent music to a farther distance than 
a thousand paces. And this view is confirmed by the 
language of the shepherds themselves, who, when the 
vision has faded, say one to another, " Let us now go 
even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to 
pass ; " for they scarcely would have needed, or used, 
the adverbial," even" were they keeping their flocks so 
close up to the walls of the city. We may therefore 
infer, with some amount of probability, that whether 
the shepherds were residents of Bethlehem or not, 
when they kept watch over their flocks, it was not on 
the traditional site, but farther away over the hills. 
Indeed, it is difficult, and very often impossible, for us 
to fix the precise locality of these sacred scenes, these 
bright points of intersection, where Heaven's glories 
flash out against the dull carbon-points of earth ; and 
the voices of tradition are at best but doubtful guesses. 
It would almost seem as if God Himself had wiped out 
these memories, hiding them away, as He hid the 
sepulchre of Moses, lest the world should pay them too 
great a homage, and lest we might think that one 
place lay nearer to heaven than another, when all 
places are equally distant, or rather equally near. , It 
is enough to know that somewhere on these lonely hills 


came the vision of the angels, perhaps on the very 
spot where David was minding his sheep when 
Heaven summoned him to a higher task, passing him 
up among the kings. 

While the shepherds were "watching the watches of 
the night over their flock, 1 ' as the Evangelist expresses 
it ; referring to the pastoral custom of dividing the night 
into watches, and keeping watch by turns, suddenly 
"an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of 
the Lord shone round about them." When the angel 
appeared to Zacharias, and when Gabriel brought to 
Mary her evangel, we do not read of any supernatural 
portent, any celestial glory, attending them. Possibly 
because their appearances were in the broad daylight, 
when the glory would be masked, invisible ; but now, 
in the, dead of night, the angelic form is bright and 
luminous, throwing all around them a sort of heavenly 
halo, in which even the lustrous Syrian stars grow 
dim. Dazzled by the sudden burst of glory, the 
shepherds were awed by the vision, and stricken with 
a great fear, until the angel, borrowing the tones and 
accents of their own speech, addressed to them his 
message, the message he had been commissioned to 
bring : " Be not afraid ; for behold, I bring you good 
tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people : for 
there is born to you this day in the city of David a 
Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.' 7 And then he gave 
them a sign by which they might recognize the Saviour 
Lord: "Ye shall find a babe wrapped in swaddling 
clothes, and lying in a manger." 

From the indefinite wording of the narrative we 
should infer that the angel who brought the message to 
the shepherds was not Gabriel, who had before brought 
the good tidings to Mary. But whether or not the 


messenger was the same, the two messages are almost 
identical in structure and in thought, the only difference 
being the personal element of the equation, and the 
shifting of the time from the future to the present tense. 
Both strike the same key-note, the " Fear not " with 
which they seek to still the vibrations of the heart, that 
the Virgin and the shepherds may not have their vision 
blurred and tremulous through the agitation of the mind. 
Both make mention of the name of David, which name 
was the key-word which unlocked all Messianic hopes. 
Both speak of the Child as a Saviour though Gabriel 
wraps up the title within the name, "Thou shalt call 
His name Jesus ; " for, as St. Matthew explains it, " it 
is He that shall save His people from their sins." Both, 
too, speak of Him as the Messiah ; for when the angel 
now calls Him the " Christ " it was the same " Anointed " 
one who, as Gabriel had said, " should reign over the 
house of Jacob for ever ; " while in the last august title 
now given by the angel, " Lord," we may recognize the 
higher Divinity that He is, in some unique, and to us 
incomprehensible sense, "the Son of the Most High" 
(i. 32). Such, then, is the triple crown the angel now 
bears to the cradle of the Holy Child. What He will 
be to the world is still but a prophecy ; but as He, the 
Firstborn, is now brought into the world, God commands 
all the angels to worship Him (Heb. i. 6) ; and with 
united voice though the antiphon sings back over a 
nine months' silence they salute the Child of Bethlehem 
as Saviour, Messiah, Lord. The one title sets up His 
throne facing the lower world, commanding the powers 
of darkness, and looking at the moral conditions of men; 
the second throws the shadow of His throne over the 
political relations of men, making it dominate all thrones ; 
while the third title sets up His throne facing the 


heavens themselves, vesting Him with a supreme, a 
Divine authority. 

No sooner was the message ended than suddenly 
there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly 
host, praising God and saying 

"Glory to God in the highest, 
And on earth peace among men in whom He is well pleased." 

The Revised Version lacks the rhythmic qualities of 
the Authorized Version ^ and the wordy clause " among 
men in whom He is well pleased " seems but a poor 
substitute for the terse and clear "good-will toward 
men/' which is an expression easy of utterance, and 
which seemed to have earned a prescriptive right to a 
place in our Advent music. The revised rendering, 
however, is certainly more in accord with the gram- 
matical construction of the original, whose idiomatic 
form can scarcely be put into English, except in a way 
somewhat circuitous and involved. In both expressions 
the underlying thought is the same, representing man 
as the object of the Divine good-pleasure, that Divine 
"benevolence" using the word in its etymological 
sense which enfolds, in the germ, the Divine favour, 
compassion, mercy, and love. There is thus a triple 
parallelism running through the song, the "Glory to 
God in the highest n finding its corresponding terms in 
the "peace among (or to) men in whom He is well 
pleased on earth ; " while altogether it forms one com- 
plete circle of praise, the " good-pleasure to man," the 
"peace on earth," the "glory to God" marking off its 
three segments. And so the song harmonizes with the 
message ; indeed, it is that message in an altered shape; 
no longer walking in common prosaic ways, but winged 
now, it moves in its higher circles with measured beat, 


leaving a path from the cradle of the Infancy to the 
highest heavens all strewn with Glorias. And what is 
the triplicity of the song but another rendering of the 
three august titles of the message Saviour, Messiah, 
Lord ? the "Saviour" being the expression of the Divine 
good-pleasure ; the " Messiah." telling of His reign upon 
earth who is Himself the Prince of peace ; while the 
"Lord/' which, as we have seen, corresponds with 
"the Son of the Most High," leads us up directly to 
the " heavenlies/' to Him who commands and who 
deserves all doxologies. 

But is this song only a song in some far-distant sky 
a sweet memory indeed, but no experience ? Is it not 
rather the original from which copies may be struck for 
our individual lives ? There is for each of us an advent, 
if we will accept it ; for what is regeneration but the 
beginning of the Divine life within our life, the advent 
of the Christ Himself? And let but that supreme hour , 
come to us when place and room are made for Him 
who is at once the expression of the Divine favour and 
the incarnation of the Divine love, and the new era 
dawns, the reign of peace, the "peace o/God," because 
the "peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." 
Then will the heart throw off its Glorias, not in one 
burst of song, which subsides quickly into silence, but 
in one perpetual anthem, which ever becomes more loud 
and sweet as the day of its perfected redemption draweth 
nigh ; for when the Divine displeasure is turned away, 
and a Divine peace or comfort takes its place, who can 
but say, " O Lord, I will praise Thee " ? 

Directly the angel-song had ceased, and the singers 
had disappeared in Jhe deep silence whence they came, 
the shepherds, gathering up their scattered thoughts, 
said one to another (as if their hearts were speaking all 


at once and all in unison), " Let us now go even unto 
Bethlehem, and see this thing that is come to pass 
which the Lord hath made known unto us." The 
response was immediate. They do not shut out this 
heavenly truth by doubt and vain questioning; they 
do not keep it at a distance from them, as if it only 
indirectly and distantly concerned themselves, but yield 
themselves up to it entirely ; and as they go hastily to 
Bethlehem, in the quick step and in the rapid beating 
of their heart, we can trace the vibrations of the angel- 
song. And why is this ? Why is it that the message 
does not come upon them as a surprise? Why are 
these men ready with such a perfecft acquiescence, 
their hearts leaping forward to meet and embrace this 
Gospel of the angels? We shall probably find our 
answer in the character of the men themselves. They 
pass into history unnamed; and after playing their 
brief part, they disappear, lost in the incense-cloud of 
their own praises. But evidently these shepherds were 
no mean, no common men. They were Hebrews, pos- 
sibly of the royal line ; at any rate they were Davids 
in their loftiness of thought, of hope and aspiration. 
They were devout, God-fearing men. Like their father 
Jacob, they too were citizens of two worlds; they 
could lead their flocks into green pastures, and mend 
the fold ; or they could turn aside' from flock and fold 
to wrestle with God's angels, and prevail. Heaven's 
revelations come to noble minds, as the loftiest peaks 
are always the first to hail the dawn. And can we 
suppose that Heaven would so honour them, lighting 
up the sky with an aureole of glory for their sole 
benefit, sending this multitude to sing to them a sweet 
chorale, if the men themselves had nothing heavenly 
about them, if their selfish, sordid mind could soar no 


higher than their flocks, and have no wider range than 
the markets for their wool ? 

" Let but a flute , 
Play 'neath the fine-mixed metal ; 
Then shall the huge bell tremble, then the mass 
With myriad waves concurrent shall respond 
In low, soft unison." 

But there must be the music hidden within, or there 
is no unison. And we may be sure of this, that the 
angel-song had passed by them as a cold night-wind, 
had not their hearts been tuned up by intense desire, 
until they struck responsive to the angel-voice. Though 
they knew it not, they had led their flock 1 to the mount 
of God ; and up the steps of sacred hopes and lofty 
aspirations they had climbed, until their lives had got 
within the circle of heavenly harmonies, and they were 
worthy to be the first apostles of the New Dispensa- 

In our earthly modes of thinking we push the sacred 
and the secular far apart, as if they were two different 
worlds, or, at any rate, as opposite hemispheres of the 
same world, with but few points of contact between 
them. It is not so. The secular is the sacred on its 
under, its earthward side. It is a part of that great 
whole we call duty, and in our earthly callings, if they 
are but pure and honest, we may hear the echoes of a 
heavenly call. The temple of Worship and the temple 
of Work are not separated by indefinable spaces ; they 
are contiguous, leaning upon each other, while they 
both front the same Divine purpose. Nor can it be 
simply a coincidence that Heaven's revelations should 
nearly always come to man in the moments of earthly 
toil, rather than in the hours of leisure or of so-called 
worship. It was from his shepherding the burning 


bush beckoned Moses aside ; while Heaven's messenger 
found Gideon on the threshing-floor, and Eiisha in the 
furrow. In the New Testament, too, in all the cases 
whose circumstances are recorded, the Divine call 
reached the disciples when engaged in their every-day 
task ; sitting at the receipt of custom, and casting or 
mending their nets. The fact is significant In the 
estimate of Heaven, instead of a discount being put upon 
the common tasks of life, those tasks are dignified and 
ennobled. They look towards heaven, and if the heart 
be only set in that direction they lead too up towards 
heaven. Our weeks are not unlike the sheet of Peter's 
vision ; we take care to tie up the two ends, attaching 
them to heaven, and then we leave what we call the 
" week-days " bulging down earthward in purely secular 
fashion. But would not our weeks, and our whole life, 
swing on a higher and holier level, could we but recog- 
nize the fact that all days are the Lord's days, and 
did we but attach each day and each deed to heaven ? 
Such is the truest, noblest life, that takes the " trivial 
rounds w as a part of its sacred duties, doing them all 
as unto the Lord. So, as we sanctify life's common 
things, they cease to be common, and the earthly 
becomes less earthly as we learn to see more of heaven 
in it In the weaving of our life some of its threads 
stretch earthward, and some heavenward ; but they 
cross and interlace, and together they form the warp 
and woof of one fabric, which -should be, like the gar- 
ment of the Master; without seam, woven from the top 
throughout. Happy is that life which, keeping an open 
eye over the flock, keeps too a heart open towards 
heaven, ready to listen to the angelic music, and ready 
to transfer its rhythm to their own hastening feet 01 
their praising lips. 


Our Evangelist tells us that they " came in haste " 
in search of the young Child, and we may almost detect 
that haste in the very accents of their speech. It is, 
" Let us now go across even to Bethlehem/' allowing 
the prefix its proper meaning ; as if their eager hearts 
could not stay to go round by the ordinary road, but 
like bees scenting a field of clover, they too must make 
their cross-country way to Bethlehem. Though the 
angel had not given explicit directions, the city of 
David was not so large but that they could easily dis- 
cover the object of their search the Child, as had been 
told them, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in 
a manager. It has been thought by some that the 
u inn" is a mistranslation, and that it really was the 
" guest-chamber" of some friend. It is true the word 
is rendered "guest-chamber" on the other two occasions 
of its use (Mark xiv. 14; Luke xxii. il), but it also 
signified a public guest-house, as well as a private 
guest-chamber; and such evidently is its meaning here, 
for private hospitality, even had its " guest-chamber " 
been preoccupied, would certainly, under the circum- 
stances, have offered something more human than a 
stable. That would not have been its only alternative. 

It is an interesting coincidence, and one serving to 
link together the Old and the New Testament, that 
Jeremiah speaks of a certain geruth, or inn, as it may 
read, " which is by Beth-lehem " (Jer. xli. 17). How 
it came into the possession of Chimham, who was a 
Gileadite, we are not told ; but we are told that be- 
cause of the kindness shown to David in his exile by 
Barzillai, his son Chimham received special marks of 
the royal favour, and was, in fact, treated almost as an 
adopted son (i Kings ii. 7). What is certain is that 
the khan of Bethlehem bore, for successive genera- 


tions, the name of Chimham ; which fact is in itself 
evidence that Chimham was its builder, as the well of 
Jacob retained, through all the changes of inheritance, 
the name of the patriarch whose thought and gift it 
was. In all probability, therefore, the " inn " was built 
by Chimham, on that part of the paternal estate which 
David inherited; and as the khans of the East cling 
with remarkable tenacity to their original sites, it is 
probable, to say the least, that the " inn of Chimham " 
and the inn of Bethlehem, in which there was no room 
for the two late-comers from Nazareth, were, if not 
identical, at any rate related structures so strangely 
does the cycle of history complete itself, and the Old 
merge into the New. And so, while Prophecy sings 
audibly and sweetly of the place which yet shall give 
birth to the Governor who shall rule over Israel, 
History puts up her silent hand, and salutes Beth-lehem 
Ephratah as by no means the least among the cities of 

But not in the inn do the shepherds find the happy 
parents the spring-tide of the unusual immigration 
had completely flooded that, leaving no standing-place 
for the son and daughter of David but they find 
them in a stable, probably in some adjoining cave, 
the swaddled Child, as the angels had foretold, lying 
in the manger. Art has lingered reverently and long 
over this stable scene, hiding with exquisite draperies 
its baldness and meanness, and lighting up its darkness 
with wreaths of golden glory ; but these splendours 
are apocryphal, existing only in the mind of the be- 
holder; they are the luminous mist of an adoring 
love. What the shepherds do find is an extemporized 
apartment, mean in the extreme ; two strangers fresh 
from Nazareth, both young and both poor; and a 


new-born infant asleep in the manger, with a group 
of sympathizing spectators, who have brought, in the 
emergency, all kinds of proffered helps. It seems a 
.strange ending for an angel-song, a far drop from the 
superhuman to the subhuman. Will it shake the faith 
of these apostle-shepherds ? Will it shatter their 
bright hope ? And chagrined that their auroral dream 
should have so poor a realization, will they return to 
their flocks with heavy hearts and sad ? Not they. 
They prostrate themselves before the Infant Presence, 
repeating over and over the heavenly words the angels 
had spoken unto them concerning the Child, and while 
Mary announces the name as "Jesus," they salute 
Him, as the angels had greeted Him before, as Saviour, 
Messiah, Lord ; thus putting on the head of the Child 
Jesus that triple crown, symbol of a- supremacy which 
knows no limit either in space or time. It was the 
Te Deum of a redeemed humanity, which succeeding 
years have- only made more deep, more full, and which 
in ever-rising tones will yet grow into the Alleluias 
of the heavens. Saviour, Messiah, Lord ! these titles 
struck upon Mary's ear not with surprise, for she has 
grown Accustomed to surprises now, but with a thrill 
of wonder. She could not yet spell out all their 
deep meaning, and so she pondered "them in her 
heart," hiding them away in her maternal soul, that 
their deep secrets might ripen and blossom in the 
summer of the after-years. 

The shepherds appear no more in the Gospel story. 
We see them returning to their task " glorifying and 
praising God for all the things that they had heard 
and seen," and then the mantle of a deep silence falls 
upon them. 4 s a l ai "k, rising heavenward, loses itself 
from our sight, becoming a sweet song in the sky, so 


these anonymous shepherds, these first disciples of 
the Lord, having laid their tribute at His feet in the 
name of humanity saluting the Christ who was to 
be now pass out of our sight, leaving for us the 
example of their heavenward look and their simple 
faith, and leaving, too, their Glorias, which in multi- 
plied reverberations fill all lands and all times, the 
earthly prelude of the New, the eternal Song. 



WHEN the Old Testament closed, prophecy had 
thrown upon the screen of the future the 
shadows of two persons, cast in heavenly light. 
Sketched in outline rather than in detail, still their 
personalities were sufficiently distinct as to attract the 
gaze and hopes of the intervening centuries ; while 
their differing, though related missions were clearly 
recognized. One was the Coming ONE, who should 
bring the " consolation " of Israel, and who should 
Himself be that Consolation ; and gathering into one 
august title all such glittering epithets as Star, Shiloh, 
and Emmanuel, prophecy reverently saluted Him as 
" the Lord," paying Him prospective homage and 
adoration. The other was to be the herald of another 
Dispensation, proclaiming the new kingdom and the 
new King, running before the royal chariot, even as 
Elijah ran before Ahab to the ivory palace at Jezreel, 
his voice then dying away in silence, as he himself 
passes out of sight behind the throne. Such were 
the two figures that prophecy, in a series of dissolving 
views, had thrown forward from the Old into the New 
Testament ; and such was the signal honour accorded 
to the Baptist, that while many of the Old Testament 
characters appear as reflections in the New, his is 


the only human shadow thrown back from the New 
into the Old. 

The forerunner thus had a virtual existence long 
before the time of the Advent. Known by his 
synonym of Elias, the prophesied, he became as a real 
presence, moving here and there among their thoughts 
and dreams, and lighting up their long night with 
the beacon-fires of new and bright hopes. His voice 
seemed familiar, even though it came to them in far- 
distant echoes, and the listening centuries had caught 
exactly both its accent and its message. And so the 
preparer of the way found his own path prepared ; 
for John's path and " the way of the Lord " were the 
same ; it was the way of obedience and of sacrifice. 
The two lives were thus thrown into conjunction from 
the first, the lesser light revolving around the Greater, 
as they fulfil their separate courses separate indeed, 
as far as the human must ever be separated from the 
Divine, yet most closely related. 

Living thus through the pre-Advent centuries, both 
in the Divine purpose and in the thoughts and hopes 
of men, so early designated to his heraldic office, 
" My messenger," in a singular sense, as no other of 
mortals could ever be, it is no matter of apology, or 
even of surprise, that his birth should be attended by 
so much of the supernatural. The Divine designation 
seems to imply, almost to demand, a Divine declaration ; 
and in the birth-story of the Baptist the flashes of the 
supernatural, such as the angelic announcement and 
the miraculous conception, come with a simple natural- 
ness. The prelude is in perfect symphony with the 
song. St. Luke is the only Evangelist who gives us 
the birth-story. The other three speak only of his 
mission, introducing him to us abruptly, as, like 


another Moses, he comes down from his new Sinai 
with the tables of the law in his hands and the strange 
light upon his face. St. Luke takes us back to the 
infancy, that we may see the beginnings of things, 
the Divine purpose enwrapped in swaddling clothes, 
as it once was set adrift in a rush-plaited ark. Back 
of the message he puts the man, and back of the man 
he puts the child for is not the child a prophecy or 
invoice of the man ? while all around the child he puts 
the environment of home/showing us the subtle, power- 
ful influences that touched and shaped the young 
prophet-life. As a plant carries up into its outmost 
leaves the ingredients of the rock around which its 
fibres cling, so each upspringing life even the life of 
a prophet carries into its farthest reaches the un- 
conscious influence of its home associations. And so 
St. Luke sketches for us that quiet home in the hill- 
country, whose windows opened and whose 'doors 
turned toward Jerusalem, the " city of the great " and 
invisible " King." He shows us Zacharias and Elisa- 
beth, true saints of God, devout of heart and blameless 
of life, down into whose placid lives an angel came, 
rippling them with the excitements of new promises 
and hopes. Where could the first meridian of the New 
Dispensation run better than through the home of 
these seers of things unseen, these watchers for the 
dawn ? Where could be so fitting a receptacle for the 
Divine purpose, where it could so soon and so well 
ripen ? Had not God elected them to this high honour, 
and Himself prepared them for it? Had He not 
purposely kept back all earlier, lower shoots, that their 
whole growth should be upward, one reaching out 
towards heaven, like the palm, its fruit clustering 
around its outmost branches ? We can easily imagine 


what intense emotion the message of the angel would 
produce, and that Zacharias would not so much miss 
the intercourse of human speech now that God's 
thoughts were audible in his soul. What loving pre- 
paration would Elisabeth make for this child of hers, 
who was to be " great in the sight of the Lord"! 
what music she would strike out from its name, 
4C John " (the Grace of Jehovah), the name which was 
both the sesame and symbol of the New Dispensation ! 
How her eager heart would* outrun the slow months, 
as she threw herself forward in anticipation among the 
joys of maternity, a motherhood so exalted ! And why 
did she hide herself for the five months, but that she 
might prepare herself for her great mission ? that in 
her seclusion she might hear more distinctly the voices 
that spake to her from above, or that in the silence 
she might hear her own heart sing? 

But neither the eagerness of Elisabeth nor the dumb- 
ness of Zacharias is allowed to hasten the Divine 
purpose. That purpose, like the cloud of old, accommo- 
dates itself to human conditions, the slow processions 
of the humanities ; and not until the time is " full " 
does the hope become a realization, and the infant 
voice utter its first cry. And now is gathered the first 
congregation of the new era. It is but a family gather- 
ing, as the neighbours and relatives come together for 
the circumcising of the child which rite was always 
performed on the corresponding day of the week after 
its birth ; but it is significant as being the first 'of those 
ever-widening circles that moving outwards from its 
central impulse, spread rapidly over the land, as they 
are now rapidly spreading over all lands. Zacharias, 
of course, was present ; but mute and deaf, he could 
only sit apart, a silent spectator. Elisabeth, as we may 


gather from various references and hints, was of modest 
and retiring disposition, fond of putting herself in the 
shade, of standing behind ; and so now the conduct of 
the ceremony seems to have fallen into the hands of 
some of the relatives. Presuming that the general 
custom will be observed, that the first-born child will 
take the name of the father, they proceed to name it 
"Zacharias." This, however, Elisabeth cannot allow, 
and with an emphatic negative, she says, " Not so ; but 
he shall be called John." Persistent still in their own 
course, and not satisfied with the mother's affirmation, 
the friends turn to the aged and mute priest, and by 
signs ask how they shall name the child (and had 
Zacharias heard the conversation, he certainly would 
not have waited for their question, but would have 
spoken or written at once) ; and Zacharias, calling for 
the writing-table, which doubtless had been his close 
companion, giving him his only touch of the outer 
world for the still nine months, wrote, " His name is 
John." Ah, they are too late ! the child was named even 
long before its birth, named, too, within the Holy Place 
of the Temple, and by an angel of God. "John" and 
" Jesus," those two names, since the visit of the Virgin, 
have been like two bells of gold, throwing waves of 
music across heart and home, ringing their welcome to 
" the Christ who is to be," the Christ who is now so 
near. " His name is John ; " and with that brief stroke 
of his pen Zacharias half rebukes these intrusions and 
interferences of the relatives, and at the same time 
makes avowal of his own faith. And as he wrote the 
name "John," his present obedience making atonement 
for a past unbelief, instantly the paralyzed tongue was 
loosed, and he spake, blessing God, throwing the name 
of his child into a psalm ; for what is the Benedictus of 


Zacharias but "John" written large and full, one sweet 
and loud magnifying of "the Grace and Favour of 
Jehovah " ? 

It is only a natural supposition that when the inspi- 
ration of the song had passed away, Zacharias' speech 
would begin just where it was broken off, and that he 
would narrate to the guests the strange vision of the 
Temple, with the angel's prophecy concerning the child. 
And as the guests depart to their own homes, each one 
carries the story of this new Apocalypse, as he goes to 
spread the evangel, and to wake among the neighbour- 
ing hills the echoes of Zacharias' song. No wonder that 
fear came upon all that dwelt round about, and that 
they who pondered these things in their hearts should 
ask, "What then shall this child be?" 

And here the narrative of the childhood suddenly 
ends, for with two brief sentences our Evangelist dis- 
misses the thirty succeeding years. He tells us that 
" the hand of the Lord was with the child/' doubtless 
arranging its circumstances, giving it opportunities, 
preparing it for the rugged manhood and the rugged 
mission which should follow in due course; and that 
" the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit/' the very 
same expression he afterwards uses in reference to the 
Holy Child, an expression we can best interpret by the 
angel's prophecy, "He shall be filled with the Holy 
Ghost even from his mother's womb." His native 
strength of spirit was made doubly strong by the touch 
of the Divine Spirit, as the iron, coming from its 
baptism of fire, is hardened and tempered into steel. 
And so we see that in the Divine economy even a con- 
secrated childhood is a possible experience ; and that it is 
comparatively infrequent is owing rather to our warped 
views, which possibly may need some readjustment, 


than to the Divine purpose and provision. Is the child 
born into the Divine displeasure, branded from its birth 
with the mark of Cain ? Is it not rather born into 
the Divine mercy, and all enswathed in the abundance 
of Divine love ? True, it is born of a sinful race, with 
tendencies to self-will which may lead it astray ; but it 
is just as true that it is born within the covenant of 
grace ; that around its earliest and most helpless years is 
thrown the segis of Christ's atonement ; and that these 
innate tendencies are held in check and neutralized by 
what is called "prevenient grace." In the struggle for 
that child-life are the powers of darkness the first in 
the field, outmarching and out-manoeuvring the powers 
of light? Why, the very thought is half-libellous. 
Heaven's touch is upon the child from the first Ignore 
it as we may, deny it as some will, yet back in life's 
earliest dawn the Divine Spirit is brooding aver the 
unformed world, parting its firmaments of right and 
wrong, and fashioning a new Paradise. Is evil the 
inevitable? Must each life taste the forbidden fruit 
before it can attain to a .knowledge of the good ? In 
other words, is sin a great though dire necessity? If 
a necessity, then it is no longer sin, and we must seek 
for another and more appropriate name. No ; childhood 
is Christ's purchased and peculiar possession ; and the 
best type of religious experience is that which is marked 
by no rapid transitions, which breaks upon the soul 
softly and sweetly as a dawn, its beginnings impercep- 
tible, and so unremembered. So not without meaning 
is it that right at the gate of the New Dispensation we 
find the cradle of a consecrated childhood. Placed 
there by the gate, so that all may see it, and placed in 
the light, so that all may read it, the childhood of the 
Baptist tells us what our childhood might oftener be, 


if only its earthly guardians whose hands are so 
powerful to impress and mould the plastic soul were, 
like Zacharias and Elisabeth, themselves prayerful, 
blameless, and devout. 

Now the scene shifts ; for we read he ll was in the 
deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel." From 
the fact that this clause is intimately connected with 
the preceding, " and the child grew and waxed strong 
in spirit" the two clauses having but one subject 
some have supposed that John was but a child when he 
turned away from the parental roof and sought the 
wilderness. But this does not follow. The two parts 
of the sentence are only separated by a comma, but 
that pause may bridge over a chasm wide enough for 
the flow of numerous years, and between the child- 
hood and the wilderness the narrative would almost 
compel us to put a considerable space. As his physical 
development was, in mode and proportion, purely 
human, with no hint of anything unnatural or even 
supernatural, so we may suppose was his mental 
and spiritual development. The voice must become 
articulate; it must play upon the alphabet, and turn 
sound into speech. It must learn, that it may think ; 
it must study, that it may know. And so the human 
teacher is indispensable. Children reared of wolves 
may learn to bark, but, in spite of mythology, they will 
not build cities and found empires. And where could 
the child find better instructors than in his own parents, 
whose quiet lives had been passed in an atmosphere of 
prayer, and to whom the very jots and tittles of the law 
were familiar and dear ? Indeed, we can scarcely sup- 
pose that after having prepared Zacharias and Elisabeth 
for their great mission, working what is something like 
a miracle, that she and no one else shall be the mother 


of the forerunner, the child should then be torn away 
from its natural guardians before the processes of its 
education are complete. It is true they were both 
" well stricken in years/ 7 but that phrase would cover 
any period from threescore years and upwards, and to 
that threescore the usual longevity of the Temple minis- 
trants would easily allow another twenty years to be 
added. May we not, then, suppose that the child-Baptist 
studied and played under the parental roof, the bright 
focus to which their hopes, and thoughts, and prayers 
converged ; that here, too, he spent his boyhood and 
youth, preparing for that priestly office to which his 
lineage entitled and designated him ? for why should 
not the " messenger of the Lord " be priest as well ? 
We have no further mention of Zacharias and Elisa- 
beth, but it is not improbable that their death was the 
occasion of John's retirement to the deserts, now a 
young man, perhaps, of twenty years. 

According to custom, John now should have been 
introduced and consecrated to the priesthood, twenty 
years being the general age of the initiates; but in 
obedience to a higher call, John renounces the priest- 
hood, and breaks with the Temple at once and for 
ever. Retiring to the deserts, which, wild and gloomy, 
stretch westward from the Dead Sea, and assuming the 
old prophet garb a loose dress of camel's hair, bound 
with a thong of leather the student becomes the reeluse. 
Inhabiting some mountain cave, tasting only the coarse 
fare that nature offered locusts and wild honey the 
new Elias has come and has found his Cherith ; and 
here, withdrawn far from "the madding crowd" and 
the incessant babble of human talk, with no companions 
save the wild beasts and the bright constellations of 
that Syrian sky, as they wheel round in their nightly 


dance, the lonely man opens his heart to God's great 
thoughts and purposes, and by constant prayer keeps 
his clear, trumpet voice in drill. Evidently, John had 
seen enough of so-called " society/' with its cold con- 
ventionalities and hypocrisies ; his keen eye had seen 
only too easily the hollowness and corruption that lay 
beneath the outer gloss and varnish the thin veneer 
that but half concealed the worminess and rottenness 
that lay beneath. John goes out into the desert like 
another scapegoat, bearing deep within his heart the 
sins of his nation sins, alas, which are yet unrepented 
of and unforgiven ! It was doubtless thoughts like these, 
and the constant bro.oding upon them, which gave to 
the Baptist that touch of melancholy that we can detect 
both in his features and his speech. Austere in 
person, with a wail in his voice like the sighing of 
the wind, or charged at times with suppressed thunders, 
the Baptist reminds us of the Peri, who 

" At the gate 
Of Eden stood disconsolate/' 

Sin had become to John an awful fact. He could see 
nothing else. The fragments of the law's broken 
tables strewed the land, even the courts of the Temple 
itself, and men were everywhere tripping against them 
and falling. But John did see something else ; it was 
the day of the Lord, now very near, the day that 
should come scathing and burning "as a furnace/' 
unless, meanwhile, Israel should repent. So the pro- 
phet mused, and as he mused the fire burned within 
his soul, even the fire of the Refiner, the fire of God. 

Our Evangelist characterizes the opening of John's 
ministry with an official word. He calls it a " show- 
ing/' a " manifestation," putting upon the very word 


the stamp and sanction of a Divine appointment. He 
is careful, too, to mark the time, so giving the Gospel 
story its place among the chronologies of the world ; 
which he does in a most elaborate way. He first reads 
the time on the horoscope of the Empire, whose 
swinging pendulum was a rising or a falling throne ; 
and he states that it was "the fifteenth year of the 
reign of Tiberius Caesar/ ' counting the two years of 
his joint rule with Augustus. Then, as if that were 
not enough, he notes the hour as indicated on the four 
quarters of the Hebrew commonwealth, the hour when 
Pilate, Herod, Philip, and Lysanias were in conjunc- 
tion, ruling in their divided heavens. Then, as if that 
even were not enough, he marks the ecclesiastical hour 
as indicated by the marble time-piece of the Temple ; 
it was when Annas and Caiaphas held jointly the high 
priesthood. What is the meaning of this elaborate 
mechanism, wheels within wheels ? Is it because the 
hour is so important, that it needs the hands of an 
emperor, a governor, three tetrarchs, and two high 
priests to point it ? Ewald is doubtless right in saying 
that St. Luke, as the historian, wished " to frame the 
Gospel history into the great history of the world " by 
giving precise dates ; but if that were the Evangelist's 
main reason, such an accumulation of time-evidence 
were scarcely necessary ; for what do the subsequent 
statements add to the precision of the first " In the 
fifteenth year of Tiberius " ? We must, then, seek for 
the Evangelist's meaning elsewhere. Among the oldest 
of the Hebrew prophecies concerning the Messiah was 
that of Jacob. Closing his life, as Moses did after- 
wards, with a wonderful vision, he looked down on the 
far-off years, and speaking of the coming "Seed," he 
said, " The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a 


lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come" 
(Gen. xlix. 10). Might not this prophecy have been in 
the thought of the Evangelist when he stayed so much 
longer than his wont to note times and seasons ? 
Why does he mention Herod and Pilate, Philip and 
"Lysanias, but to show how the sceptre has, alas, 
departed from Judah, and the lawgiver from between 
his feet, and how the chosen land is torn to pieces by 
the Roman eagles ? And why does he name Annas 
and Caiaphas, but to show how the same disintegrating 
forces are at work even within the Temple, when the 
rightful high priest can be set aside and superseded by 
the nominee of a foreign and a Pagan power ? Verily 
" the glory has departed from Israel ; ;> and if St. Luke 
introduces foreign emperors, tetrarchs, and governors, 
it is that they may ring a muffled peal over the grave 
of a dead nation, a funeral knell, which, however, shall 
be the signal for the coming of the Shiloh, and the 
gathering of the people unto Him. 

Such were the times times of disorganization, dis- 
order, and almost despair when the word of God came 
unto John in the wilderness. It came " upon " him, 
as it literally reads, probably in one of those wonderful 
theophanies, as when God spake to Moses from the 
flaming bush, or as when He appeared to Elijah upon 
Horeb, sending him back to an unfinished task. John 
obeyed. Emerging from his wilderness retreat, clad 
in his strange attire, spare in build, his features sharp 
and worn with fasting, his long, dishevelled hair telling 
of his Nazarite vow, he moves down to the Jordan 
like an apparition. His appearance is everywhere 
hailed with mingled curiosity and delight. Crowds 
come in ever-increasing numbers, not one class only, 
but all classes priests, soldiers, officials, people until 


it seemed as if the cities had emptied themselves into 
the Jordan valley. And what went they "out for to 
see " ? "A reed shaken with the wind " ? A prophe- 
sier of smooth things ? A preacher of revolt against 
tyranny ? Nay ; John was no wind-shaken reed ; 
he was rather the heavenly wind itself, swaying the 
multitudes at will, and bending hearts and consciences 
into penitence and prayer. John was no preacher of 
revolt against the powers that be ; in his mind, Israel 
had revolted more and more, and he must bring them 
back to their allegiance, or himself die in the attempt. 
John was no preacher of smooth things ; there was 
not even the charm of variety about his speech. The 
one burden of his message was, " Repent : for the 
kingdom of heaven is at hand." But the effect was 
marvellous. The lone voice from the wilderness swept 
over the land like the breath of God. Borne forwards 
on a thousand lips, it echoed through the cities and 
penetrated into remotest places. Judaea, Samaria, and 
even distant Galilee felt the quiver of the strange 
voice, and even from the shore of the Northern Sea 
men came to sit at the feet of the new teacher, and 
to call themselves John's disciples. So widespread 
and so deep was the movement, it sent its ripples even 
within the royal palace, awaking the curiosity, and 
perhaps the conscience,, of Herod himself. It was a 
genuine revival of religion, such as Judaea had not 
witnessed since the days of Ezra, the awaking of the 
national conscience and of the national hope. 

Perhaps it would be difficult, by any analysis of 
ours, to discover or to define the secret of John's 
success. It was the resultant, not of one force, but 
of many. For instance, the hour was favourable. It 
was the Sabbatic year, when field-work was in the 



main suspended, and men everywhere had leisure, 
mind and hand lying, as it were, fallow. Then, too, 
the very dress of the Baptist would not be without its 
influence, especially on a mind so sensitive to form 
and colour as the Hebrew mind was. Dress to them 
was a form of duty. They were accustomed to weave 
in to their tassels sacred symbols, so making the external 
speak of the eternal. Their hands played on the parti- 
coloured threads most faithfully and sacredly; for 
were not these the chords of Divine harmonies ? But 
here is one who discards both the priestly and the 
civilian dress, and who wears, instead, the rough camel's 
hair robe of the old prophets. The very dress would 
thus appeal most powerfully to their imagination, 
carrying back their thoughts to the time of the Theo- 
cracy, when Jehovah was not silent as now, and when 
Heaven was so near, speaking by some Samuel or 
Elijah. Are those days returning? they would ask. Is 
this the Elias who was to come and restore all things ? 
Surely it must be. And in the rustle of the Baptist's 
robe they heard the rustle of Elijah's mantle, dropping 
a second time by these Jordan banks. Then, too, 
there was the personal charm of the man. John was 
young, if years are our reckoning, for he counted but 
thirty ; but in his case the 'verve and energy of youth 
were blended with the discretion and saintliness of age. 
What was the world to him, its fame, its luxury and 
wealth ? They were only the dust he shook from his 
feet, as his spirit sighed for and soared after Heaven's 
better things. He asks nothing of earth but her 
plainest fare, a couch of grass, and by-and-by a grave. 
Then, too, there was a positiveness about the man, 
that would naturally attract, in a drifting, shifting, 
vacillating age. The strong -will is magnetic ; the 


weaker wills follow and cluster round it, as swarm- 
ing bees cluster around their queen. And John was 
intensely positive. His speech was clear-cut and 
incisive, with a tremendous earnestness in it, as if 
a "Thus saith the Lord" were at his heart. John's 
mood was not the subjunctive, where his words could 
eddy among the " mays " and " mights ; " it was plainly 
the indicative, or better still, the imperative. He spoke 
as one who believed, and who intensely felt what he 
believed. Then, too, there was a certain nobleness 
about his courage. He knew no rank, no party; he 
was superior to all. He feared God too much to have 
any fear of man. He spake no word for the sake of 
pleasing, and he kept back no word even the hot 
rebuke for fear of offending. Truth to him was 
more than titles, and right was the only royalty. How 
he painted the Phariseesthose shiny, slimy men, 
with creeping, sinupus ways with that dark epithet 
" brood of vipers " ! With what a fearless courage he 
denounced the incest of Herod! He will not level 
down Sinai, accommodating it to royal passions ! Not 
he. "It is not lawful for thee to have her "such 
were his words, that rolled in upon Herod's conscience 
like a peal of Sinai's thunder, telling him that law was 
law, that right was more than might, and purity more 
than power. Then, too, there was something about 
his message that was attractive. That word "the 
Imigdom of heaven " struck upon the national heart 
like a bell, and set it vibrating with new hopes, and 
awaking all kinds of beautiful dreams of recovered 
pre-eminence and power. 

But while all these were auxiliaries, factors, and 
co-efficients in the problem of the Baptist's success, 
they are not sufficient in themselves to account for 


that success. It is not difficult for a man of superior 
mental attainment, and of strong individuality, to attract 
a following, especially if that following be in the direc- 
tion of self-interest. The emotions and passions of 
humanity lie near the surface; they can be easily 
swept into a storm by the strong or by the pathetic 
voice. But to reach the conscience, to lift up the veil, 
and to pass within to that Most Holy of the human 
soul is what man, unaided, cannot do. Only the 
Divine Voice can break those deep silences of the heart ; 
or if the human voice is used the power is not in the 
words of human speech those words, even the best, 
are but the dead wires along which the Divine Voice 
moves it is the power of God. 

" Some men live near to God, as my right arm 
Is near to me; and then they walk about 
Mailed in full proof of faith, and bear a charm 
That mocks at fear, and bars the door on doubt, 
And dares the impossible," 

Just such a man was the Baptist. He was a " man 
of God." He lived, and moved, and had his being irt 
God. Self to him was an extinct passion. Envy, 
pride, ambition, jealousy, these were unknown tongues ; 
his pure soul understood not their meaning. Like his 
great prototype, "the Spirit of the Lord God" was 
upon him. His life was one conscious inspiration ; 
and John himself had been baptized with the baptism 
of which he spoke, but which he himself could not 
give, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire. This 
only will account for the wonderful effects produced 
by Ms preaching. John, in his own experience, had 
antedated Pentecost, receiving the " power from on 
high," and as he spoke it was with a tongue of fire, 


a voice in whose accent and tone the people could 
detect the deeper Voice of God. 

But if John could not baptize with the higher bap- 
tism, usurping the functions of the One coming after, 
he could, and he did, institute a lower, symbolic baptism 
of water, that thus the visible might lead up to the 
invisible. In what mode John's baptism was adminis- 
tered we cannot tell, nor is it material that we should 
know. We do know, however, that the baptism of the 
Spirit and in John's mind the two were closely related 
was constantly referred to in Scripture as an effusion, 
a " pouring out," a sprinkling, and never once as an 
immersion. And what was the " baptism of fire " to 
the mind of John ? Was it not that which the prophet 
Isaiah had experienced, when the angel touched his 
lips with the live coal taken from the altar, pronounc- 
ing over him the great absolution, "Lo, this hath 
touched thy lips ; and thine iniquity is taken away, and 
thy sin purged " (Isa. vi. 7) ? At best, the baptism of 
"water is but a shadow of the better thing, the outward 
symbol of an inward grace. We need not quarrel 
about modes~and"lbrms. Scripture has purposely left 
them indeterminate, so that we need not wrangle about 
them. There is no need that we exalt the shadow, 
levelling it up to the substance ; and still less should 
we level it down, turning it into a playground for the 

Thus far the lives of Jesus and John have lain apart. 
One growing up in the hill-country of Galilee, the 
other in the hill-country of Judaea, and then in the 
isolation of the wilderness, they have never looked 
in each other's face, though they have doubtless heard 
often of each other's mission. They meet at last. 
John had been constantly telling of ONE who was 


coming after {{ after/' indeed, in order of time, but "be- 
fore," infinitely before, in pre-eminence and authority. 
Mightier than he, He was the Lord. John would deem 
it an honour to kneel down before so august a Master, 
to untie and bear away His shoes ; for in such a 
Presence servility was both becoming and ennobling. 
With such words as these the crier in the wilderness 
had been transferring the people's thought from him- 
self, and setting their hearts listening for the Coming 
One, so preparing and broadening His way. Suddenly, 
in one of the pauses of his ministrations, a Stranger 
presents Himself, and asks that the rite of baptism may 
be administered to Him. There is nothing peculiar 
about His dress ; He is. younger than the Baptist 
much younger, apparently, for the rough, ascetic life 
has prematurely aged him but such is the grace and 
dignity of His person, such the mingled "strength and 
beauty " of His manhood, that even John, who never 
quailed in the presence of mortal before, is awed and 
abashed now. Discerning the innate Royalty of the 
Stranger, and receiving a monition from the Higher 
World, with which he kept up close correspondence, 
the Baptist is assured that it is He, the Lord and 
Christ. Immediately his whole manner changes. The 
voice that has swept over the land like a whirlwind, 
now is hushed, subdued, speaking softly, deferentially, 
reverentially. Here is a Presence in which his im- 
peratives all melt away and disappear, a Will that is 
infinitely higher than his own, a Person for whom 
his baptism is out of place. John is perplexed ; he 
hesitates, he demurs. " I have need to be baptized of 
Thee, and comest Thou to me ? " and John, Elias-like, 
would fain have wrapped his mantle around his face, 
burying out of sight his little " me," in the presence of 



the Lord. But Jesus said, " Suffer it now : for thus 
it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness " (Matt. iii. 1 5). 

The baptism of Jesus was evidently a new kind of 
baptism, one in which the usual formulas were 
strangely out of place; and the question naturally 
arises, Why should Jesus submit to, and even ask 
for, a baptism that was so associated with repentance 
and sin ? Could there be any place for repentance, 
any room for confession, in the Sinless One ? John 
felt the anomaly, and so shrank from administering the 
rite, till the reply of Jesus put His baptism on different 
ground -ground altogether clear of any personal 
demerit. Jesus asked for baptism, not for the wash- 
ing away of sin, but that He might " fulfil all righteous- 
ness." He was baptized, not for His own sake, but 
for the world's sake. Coming to redeem humanity, 
He would identify Himself with that humanity, even 
the sinful humanity that it was. Son of God, He 
would become a true Son of man, that through His 
redemption all other sons of men might become true 
sons of God. Bearing the sins of many, taking away 
the sin of the world, that heavy burden lay at His 
heart from the first; He could not lay it down until 
He left it nailed to His cross. Himself knowing no 
sin, He yet becomes the Sin-offering, and is " numbered 
among the transgressors." And as Jesus went to the 
cross and into the grave mediatorially, as Humanity's 
Son, so Jesus now passes into the baptismal waters 
mediatorially, repenting for that world whose heart is 
still hard, and whose eyes are dry of godly tears, and 
confessing the sin which He in love has made His own, 
the " sin of the world," the sin He has come to make 
atonement for and to bear away. 

Such is the meaning of the Jordan baptism, in 


which Jesus puts the stamp of Divinity upon John's 
mission, while John bears witness to the sinlessness of 
Jesus. But a Higher Witness came than even that of 
John ; for no sooner was the rite administered, and the 
river-bank regained, than the heavens were opened, 
and the Spirit of God, in the form of a fiery dove 
descended and alighted on the head of Jesus; while 
a Voice out of the Unseen proclaimed, " This is My 
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And so the 
Son of man receives the heavenly, as well as the 
earthly baptism. Baptized with water, He is now 
baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, anointed 
with the unction of the Holy One. But why should 
the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus in the form of a 
dove, and afterwards upon the disciples in the form ot 
cloven tongues of fire ? We can understand the 
symbolism of the cloven tongues; for was not their 
mission to preach and teach, spreading and establishing 
the kingdom by a consecrated speech the Divine 
word carried forward by the human voice? What, 
then, is the meaning of the dove-form ? Does it refer 
to the dove of the Old Dispensation, which bearing the 
olive-leaf in its mouth, preached its Gospel to the 
dwellers in the ark, telling of the abatement of the 
angry waters, and of a salvation that was near ? And 
was not Jesus a heavenly Dove, bearing to the world 
the olive-branch of reconciliation and of peace, pro- 
claiming the fuller, wider Gospel of mercy and of love ? 
The supposition, at any rate, is a possible one, while the 
words of Jesus would almost make it a probable one \ 
for speaking of this same baptism of the Spirit, He 
says and in His words we can hear the beat and 
whir of dove-wings "He anointed me to preach 
good tidings to the poor : He hath sent me to proclaim 


release to the captives, ... to set at liberty them that 
are bruised " (iv. 18). 

The interview between Jesus and John was but 
brief, and in all probability final. They spend the 
following night near to each other, but apart. The day 
after, John sees Jesus walking, but the narrative would 
imply that they did not meet. John only points to Him 
and says, " Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away 
the sin of the world ; " and they part, each to follow his 
separate path, and to accomplish his separate mission. 

"The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the 
world." Such was John's testimony to Jesus, in the 
moment of his clearest illumination. He saw in Jesus, 
not as one learned writer would have us suppose, 
the sheep of David's pastoral, its life encircled with 
green pastures and still waters not this, but a lamb, 
" the Lamb of God," the Paschal Lamb, led all uncom- 
plaining to the slaughter, and by its death bearing 
away sin not either the sin of a year or the sin of a 
race, but " the sin of the world." Never had prophet 
so prophesied before; never had mortal eye seen so 
clearly and so deeply into God's great mystery of 
mercy. How, then, can we explain that mood of dis- 
appointment and of doubt which afterwards fell upon 
John ? What does it mean that from his prison he 
should send two of his disciples to Jesus with the 
strange question, " Art Thou He that cometh, or look 
we for another?" (vii. 19). John is evidently dis- 
appointed yes, and dejected too ; and the Elias still, 
Herod's prison is to him the juniper of the desert. He 
thought the Christ would be one like unto himself, 
crying in the wilderness, but with a louder voice and 
more penetrating accent. He would be some ardent 
Reformer, with axe in hand, or fan, and with baptism 


of fire. But lo, Jesus comes so different from his thought 
with no axe in hand that he can see, with no baptism 
of fire that he can hear of, a Sower rather than a 
Winnower, scattering thoughts, principles, beatitudes, 
and parables, telling not so much of " the wrath to 
come " as of the love that is already come, if men will 
but repent and receive it that John is fairly perplexed, 
and actually sends to Jesus for some word that shall be 
a solvent for his doubts. It only shows how this Elias, 
too, was a man of like passions with ourselves, and 
that even prophets' eyes were sometimes dim, reading 
God's purposes with a blurred vision. Jesus returns 
a singular answer. He says neither Yes nor No ; but 
He goes out and works His accustomed miracles, and 
then dismisses the two disciples with the message, "Go 
your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and 
heard ; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the 
lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, 
to the poor the Gospel is preached. And blessed is 
he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me." These 
words are in part a quotation from John's favourite 
prophet, Isaiah, who emphasized as no other prophet 
did the evangelistic character of Christ's mission 
which characteristic John seems to have overlooked. 
In his thought the Christ was Judge, the great^ Refiner, 
sifting the base from the pure, and casting it into some 
Gehenna of burnings. But Jesus reminds John that 
mercy is before and above judgment; that He has 
come, "not to condemn the world/' but to save it, and 
to save it, not by reiterations of the law, but by a 
manifestation of love. Ebal and Sinai have had their 
word ; now Gerizim and Calvary must speak. 

And so this greatest of the prophets was but human, 
and therefore fallible. He saw the Christ, no longer 


afar off, but near yea, present ; but he saw in part, and 
he prophesied in part. He did not see the whole 
Christ, or grasp the full purport of His mission. He 
stood on the threshold of the kingdom ; but the least 
of those who should pass within that kingdom should 
stand on a higher vantage-ground, and so be greater 
than he. Indeed, it seems scarcely possible that John 
could have fully understood Jesus ; the two were so 
entirety different. In dress, in address, in mode of 
life, in thought the two were exact opposites. John 
occupies the border-region between the Old and the 
New ; and though his life appears in the New, he 
himself belongs rather to the Old Dispensation. His 
accent is Mosaic, his message a tritonomy, a third 
giving of the law. When asked the all-important 
question, " What shall we do ? " John laid stress on 
works of charity, and by his metaphor of the two coats 
he showed that men should endeavour to equalize their 
mercies. And when publicans and soldiers ask the 
same question John gives a sort of transcript of the 
old tables, striking the negatives of duty : " Extort no 
more than that which is appointed you ; " " Do violence 
to no man/' Jesus would have answered in the simple 
positive that covered all classes and all cases alike : 
" Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." But such 
was the difference between the Old and the New : the 
one said, " Do, and thou shalt live ; " the other said, 
"Live, and thou shalt do." The voice of John awoke 
the conscience, but he could not give it rest. He was 
the preparer of the way ; Jesus was the Way, as He 
was the Truth and the Life. John was the Voice; 
Jesus was the Word. John must "decrease" and 
disappear ; Jesus must " increase," filling all times and 
all climes with His glorious, abiding presence. 


But the mission of John is drawing to a close, and 
dark clouds are gathering in the west. The popular 
idol still, a hostile current has set against him. The 
Pharisees, unforgetting and unforgiving, are deadly 
bitter, creeping across his path, and hissing out their 
"Devil;" while Herod, who in his better moods had 
invited the Baptist to his palace, now casts him into 
prison. He will silence the voice he has failed to 
bribe, the voice that beat against the chambers of his 
revelry, like a strange midnight gust, and that set him 
trembling like an aspen. We need not 'linger over 
the last sad tragedy how the royal birthday was 
kept, with a banquet to the State officials; how the 
courtesan daughter of Herodias came in and danced 
before the guests; and how the half-drunken Herod 
swore a rash oath, that he would give her anything she 
might ask, up to the half of his kingdom. Herodias 
knew well what wine and passion would do for Herod. 
She even guessed his promise beforehand, and had given 
full directions to her daughter ; and soon as the rash 
oath had fallen from his lips before he could recall or 
change his words sharp and quick the request is made, 
" Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger." There 
is a momentary conflict, and Herod gives the fearful 
word. The head of John is brought into the banquet- 
hall before the assembled guests the long flowing locks, 
the eyes that even in death seemed to sparkle with the 
fire of God ; the lips sacred to purity and truth, the lips 
that could not gloss a sin, even the sin of a Herod, Yes ; 
it is there, the head of John the Baptist. The courtiers 
see it, and smile ; Herod sees it, but does not smile. 
That face haunts him ; he never forgets it. The dead 
prophet lives still, and becomes to Herod another 


" And she brought it to her mother. And his disciples 
came, and took up the corpse, and buried him ; and they 
went and told Jesus" (Matt. xiv. n, 12). Such is the 
finis to a consecrated life, and such the work achieved by 
one man, in a ministry that was only counted by months. 
Shall not this be his epitaph, recording his faithfulness 
and zeal, and at the same time rebuking our aimlessness 
and sloth ? 

" He liveth long who liveth well ; 
All other life is short and vain : 
He liveth longest who can tell 
Of living most for heavenly gain." 



THE waters of the Jordan do not more effectually 
divide the Holy Land than they bisect the Holy 
Life. The thirty years of Nazareth were quiet enough, 
amid the seclusions of nature and the attractions of 
home; but the double baptism by the Jordan now 
remits that sweet idyll to the past. The I AM of the 
New Testament moves forward from the passive to 
the active voice; the long peace is exchanged for 
the conflict whose consummation will be the Divine 

The subject of our Lord's temptation is mysterious, 
and therefore difficult. Lying in part within the domain 
of human consciousness and experience, it stretches far 
beyond our sight, throwing its dark projections into the 
realm of spirit, that realm, " dusk with horrid shade/' 
which Reason may not traverse, and which Revelation 
itself has not illumined, save by occasional lines of light, 
thrown into, rather than across it. We cannot, perhaps, 
hope to have a perfect understanding of it, for in a 
subject so wide and deep there is room for the play 
of many hypotheses; but inspiration foould not have 
recorded the event so minutely had it not a direct 
bearing upon the whole of the Divine Life, and were it 
not full of pregnant lessons for all times. To Him who 
suffered within it, it was a wilderness indeed ; but to us 


" the wilderness and the solitary place " have become 
" glad, and the desert . . . blossoms as the rose." Let us, 
then, seek the wilderness reverently yet hopefully, and 
in doing so let us carry in our minds these two guiding 
thoughts they will prove a silken thread for the laby- 
rinth first, that Jesus was tempted as man; and 
second, that Jesus was tempted as the Son of man. 

Jesus was tempted as man. It is true that in His 
Person the human and the Divine natures were in some 
mysterious way united ; that in His flesh was the great 
mystery, the manifestation of God ; but now we must 
regard Him as divested of these dignities and Divinities. 
They are laid aside, with all other pre-mundane glories ; 
and whatever His miraculous power, for the present it is 
as if it were not Jesus takes with Him into the wilder- 
ness our manhood, a perfect humanity of flesh and blood, 
of bone and nerve ; no Docetic shadow, but a real body, 
" made in all things like unto His brethren ; " and He 
goes into the wilderness, to be tempted, not in some 
unearthly way, as one spirit might be tempted of 
another, but to be " tempted in all points like as we 
are," in a fashion perfectly human. Then, too, Jesus 
was tempted as the Son of man, not only as the perfect 
Man, but as the representative Man. As the first Adam, 
by disobedience, fell, and fallen, was driven forth into the 
wilderness, so the second Adam comes to take the place 
of the first. Tracking the steps of the first Adam, He 
too goes out into the wilderness, that He may spoil the 
spoiler, and that by His perfect obedience He may lead 
a fallen but redeemed humanity back again to Paradise, 
reversing the whole drift of the Fall, and turning it into 
a " rising again for many." And so Jesus goes, as the 
Representative Man, to do battle for humanity, and to 
receive in His own Person, not one form of temptation, 


as the first Adam did, but every form that malignant 
Evil can devise, or that humanity can know. Bearing 

these two facts in mind, we will consider (i) the 

circumstances of the Temptation, and (2) the nature of 
the Temptation. 

I. The circumstances of the Temptation. "And 
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, 
and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness." The 
Temptation, then, occurred immediately after the twofold 
baptism ; or, as St. Mark expresses it, using his charac- 
teristic word, "And straightway the Spirit driveth Him 
forth into the wilderness" (Mark i. 12). Evidently 
there is some connection between the Jordan and the 
wilderness, and there were Divine reasons why the 
test should be placed directly after the baptism. Those 
Jordan waters were the inauguration for His mission a 
kind of Beautiful Gate, leading up to the different courts 
and courses of His public ministry, and then up to the 
altar of sacrifice. The baptism of the Spirit was His 
anointing for that ministry, and borrowing our light 
from the after Pentecostal days, His enduement of 
power for that ministry. The Divine purpose, which 
had been gradually shaping itself to His mind, now 
opens in one vivid revelation. The veil of mist in 
which that purpose had been enwrapped is swept away 
by the Spirit's breath, disclosing to His view the path 
redeeming Love must take, even the way of the cross. 
It is probable, too, that He received at the same time, 
if not the enduement, at least the consciousness of 
miraculous power ; for St. John, with one stroke of his 
pen, brushes away those glossy webs that later tradi- 
tion has spun, the miracles of the Childhood, The 
Scriptures do not represent Jesus as any prodigy. His 
childhood, youth, and manhood were like the corre- 


sponding phases of other lives ; and the Gospels cer- 
tainly put no aureole about His head that was the 
afterglow of traditional fancy. Now, however, as He 
leaves the wilderness, He goes to open His mission at 
Cana, where He works His first miracle, turning, by a 
look, the water into wine. The whole Temptation, as 
we shall see, was one prolonged attack upon His 
miraculous power, seeking to divert it into unlawful 
channels ; which makes it more than probable that this 
power was first consciously received at the baptism 
the second baptism of fire ; it was a part of the anoint- 
ing of the Lord He then experienced. 

We read that Jesus now was "full of the Holy 
Spirit" It is an expression not infrequent in the 
pages of the New Testament, for we have already met 
with it in connection with Zacharias and Elisabeth; 
and St. Luke makes use of it several times in his later 
treatise on the "Acts." In these cases, however, it 
generally marked some special and sudden illumination 
or inspiration, which was more or less temporary, the 
inspiration passing away when its purpose was served. 
But whether this " filling of the Spirit " was temporary, 
or permanent, as in the case of Stephen and Barnabas, 
the expression always marked the highest elevation of 
human life, when the human spirit was in entire subor- 
dination to the Divine. To Jesus, now, the Holy 
Spirit is given without measure ; and we, who in our 
far-off experiences can recall moments of Divine bap- 
tisms, when our spirits seemed for the time to be 
caught up into Paradise, hearing voices and beholding 
visions we might not utter, even we may understand in 
part though but in part what must have been the 
emotions and ecstasies of that memorable hour by the 
Jordan. How much the opened neavens would mean 


to Him, to whom tjaey had been so long and strangely 
closed! How the Voice that declared His heavenly 
Sonship, " This is My beloved Son," must have sent 
its vibrations quivering through soul actd spirit, almost 
causing the tabernacle of His flesh to tremble with the 
new excitements ! Mysterious though it may seem to 
us, who ask impotently, How can these things be ? yet 
unless we strip the heavenly baptism of all reality, 
reducing it to a mere play of words, we must suppose 
that Jesus, who now becomes Jesus Christ, was hence- 
forth more directly and completely than before under 
the conscious inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What 
was an atmosphere enswathing the young life, bringing 
to that life its treasures of grace, beauty, and strength, 
now becomes a breath, or rather a rushing wind, of 
God, carrying that life forward upon its mission and 
upward to its goal. And so we read, He "was led 
by the Spirit in the wilderness." The verb generally 
implies pressure, constraint ; it is the enforced leading 
of the weaker by the stronger. In this case, however, 
the pressure was not upon a resisting, but a yielding 
medium. The will of Jesus swung round instantly 
and easily, moving like a vane only in the direction of 
the Higher Will. The narrative would imply that His 
own thought and purpose had been to return to Galilee ; 
but the Divine Spirit moves upon Him with such 
clearness and force "driveth" is St. Mark's expres- 
sive word that He yields Himself up to the higher 
impulse, and allows Himself to be carried, not exactly 
as the heath is swept before the wind, but in a passive- 
active way, into the wilderness. The wilderness was 
thus a Divine interjection, thrown across the path of 
the Son of God and Son of man. 

Where it was is a point of no great moment. That 


it was in the Desert of Sinai, as some suppose, is most 
unlikely. Jesus did not so venerate places ; nor was 
it like Him to make distant excursions to put Himself 
in the track of Moses or Elijah. He beckons them to 
Him. He does not go to them, not even to make 
historical repetitions. There is no reason why we may 
not accept the traditional site of the Quarantania, the 
wild, mountainous region, intersected by deep, dark 
gorges, that sweeps westward from Jericho. It is 
enough to know that it was a wilderness indeed, a 
wildness, unsoftened by the touch of human strength 
or skill ; a still, vacant solitude, where only the " wild 
beasts," preying upon each other, or prowling outward 
to the fringe of civilization, could survive. 

In the narrative of the Transfiguration we read that 
Moses and Elias appeared on the holy mount " talking 
with Jesus ; " and that these two only, of all departed 
saints, should be allowed that privilege the one repre- 
senting the Law, and the other the Proghets shows 
that there was some intimate connection between their 
several missions. At any rate, we know that the 
emancipator and the regenerator of Israel were speci- 
ally commissioned to bear Heaven's salutation to the 
Redeemer. It would be an interesting study, did it 
lie within the scope of our subject, to trace out the 
many resemblances between the three. We may, how- 
ever, notice how in the three lives the same prolonged 
fast occurs, in each case covering the same period of 
forty days ; for though the expression of St. Matthew 
would not of necessity imply a total abstention from 
food, the more concise statement of St. Luke removes 
all doubt, for we read, " He did eat nothing in those 
days." Why there should be this fast is more difficult 
to answer, and our so-called reasons can be only 


guesses. We know, however, that^fhe flesh and the 
spirit, though closely associated, have but few things 
in common. Like the centripetal and the centrifugal 
forces in nature, their tendencies and propulsions are 
in different and opposite directions. The one looks 
earthward, the other heavenward. Let the flesh prevail, 
and the life gravitates downwards, the sensual takes 
the place of the spiritual. Let the flesh be placed 
under restraint and control, taught its subordinate 
position, and there is a general uplift to the life, the 
untrammelled spirit moving upwards toward heaven 
and God. And so in the Scriptures we find the duty 
of fasting prescribed; and though the Rabbis have 
treated it in an ad absurdum fashion, bringing it into 
disrepute, still the duty has not ceased, though the 
practice may be well-nigh obsolete. And so we find 
in Apostolic days that prayer was often joined to fast- 
ing, especially when a question of importance was under 
consideration. The hours of fasting, too, as we may 
learn from the cases of the centurion and of Peter, 
were the perihelion of the Christian life r when it swung 
up in its nearest approaches to heaven, getting amid 
the circles of the angels and of celestial visions. 
Possibly in the case before us ^there was such an 
absorption of spirit, such rapture (using the word in its 
etymological, rather than in its derived meaning), that 
the claims of the body were utterly forgotten, and its 
ordinary functions were temporarily suspended; for 
to the spirit caught up into Paradise it matters little 
whether in the body or out of it. 

Then, too, the fast was closely related to the tempta- 
tion ; it was the preparation for it. If Jesus is tempted 
as the Son of man, it must be our humanity, not at 
its strongest, but at its^ weakest It must be under 


conditions so hard, no other man could have them 
harder. As an athlete, before the contest, trains up his 
body, bringing each muscle and nerve to its very best, 
so Jesus, before meeting the great adversary in single 
combat, trains down His body, reducing its physical 
strength, until it touches the lowest point of human 
weakness. And so, fighting the battle of humanity, 
He gives the adversary every advantage. He allows 
him choice of place, of time, of weapons and conditions, 
so that His victory may be more complete. Alone in 
the wild, dreary solitude, cut off from all human 
sympathies, weak and emaciated with the long fast, 
the Second Adam waits the attack of the tempter, who 
found the first Adam too easy a prey. 

2. The nature of the Temptation. In what form the 
tempter came to Him, or whether he .came in any form 
at all, we cannot tell. Scripture observes a prudent 
silence, a silence which has been made the occasion of 
much speculative and random speech on the part of 
its would-be interpreters. It will serve no good purpose 
even to enumerate the different forms the tempter is 
said to have assumed ; for what need can there be for 
any incarnation of the evil spirit? and why clamour 
for the supernatural when the natural will suffice ? If 
Jesus was tempted " as we are," will not our experiences 
throw the truest light on His? We see no shape. 
The evil one confronts us; he presents thoughts to 
our minds ; he injects some proud or evil imagination ; 
but he himself is masked, unseen, even when we are 
distinctly conscious of his presence. Just so we may 
suppose the tempter came to Him. Recalling the 
declaration made at the baptism, the announcement of 
His Divine Sonship, the devil says, "If" (or rather 
" Since," for the tempter is too wary to suggest a 


doubt as to His relationship with God) " Thou art th# 
Son of God, command this stone that it become bread." 
It is as if he said, "You are a-hungered, exhausted, 
Your strength worn away by Your long fast. This 
desert, as You see, is wild and sterile ; it can offer You 
nothing with which to supply Your physical wants; 
but You have the remedy in Your own hands. The 
heavenly Voice proclaimed You as God's Son nay, His 
beloved Son. You were invested, too, not simply with 
Divine dignities, but with Divine powers, with authority, 
supreme and absolute, over all creatures. Make use 
now of this newly given power. Speak in these newly 
learned tones of Divine authority, and command this 
stone that it become bread." Such was the thought 
suddenly suggested to the mind of Jesus, and which 
would have found a ready response from the shrinking 
flesh, had it been allowed to speak. And was not the 
thought fair and reasonable, to our thinking, all innocent 
of wrong ? Suppose Jesus should command the stone 
into bread, is it any more marvellous than commanding 
the water into wine? Is not all bread stone, dead 
earth transformed by the touch of life ? If Jesus can 
make use of His miraculous power for the benefit of 
others, why should He not use it in the emergencies 
of His own life ? The thought seemed reasonable and 
specious enough; and at first glance we do not see 
how the wings of this dove are tipped, not with silver, 
but with soot from the " pots." But stop. What does 
this thought of Satan mean? Is it as guileless and 
guiltless as it seems? Not quite; for it means that 
Jesus shall be no longer the Son of man. Hitherto 
His life has been a purely human life. "Made in all 
things like unto His brethren," from His helpless 
infancy, through the gleefulness of childhood, the dis- 



cipline of youth, and the toil of manhood, His life 
has been nourished from purely human sources. His 
" brooks in the way" have been -no secret springs, 
flowing for Himself alone ; they have been the common 
brooks, open and free to all, and where any other child 
of man might drink. But now Satan tempts Him to 
break with the past, to throw up His Son-of-manhood, 
and to fall back upon His miraculous power in this, 
and so in every other emergency of life. Had Satan 
succeeded, and had Jesus wrought this miracle for 
Himself, putting around His human nature the shield 
of His Divinity, then Jesus would have ceased to be 
man. He would have forsaken the plane of human 
life for celestial altitudes, with a wide gulf and oh, how 
wide ! between Himself and those He had come to 
redeem. And let the perfect humanity go, and the 
redemption goes with it ; for if Jesus, just by an appeal 
to His miraculous power, can surmount every difficulty, 
escape any danger, then you leave no room for the 
Passion, and no ground on which the cross may rest. 
Again, the suggestion of Satan was a temptation to 
distrust. The emphasis lay upon the title, "Son of 
God." "The Voice proclaimed You, in a peculiar 
sense, the beloved Son of God ; but where have been 
the marks of that special love ? Where are the honours, 
the heritage of joy, the Son should have ? Instead of 
that, He gives You a wilderness of solitude and priva- 
tion ; and He who rained manna upon Israel, and who 
sent an angel to prepare a cake for Elias, leaves You to 
pine and hunger. Why wait longer for help which 
has already tarried too long ? Act now for Yourself. 
Your resources are ample ; use them in commanding 
this stone into bread," Such was the drift of the 
tempter's words ; it was to \ make Jesus doubt the 


Father's love and care, to lead Him to act, not in 
opposition to, but independently of, the Father's will. 
It was an artful endeavour to throw the will of Jesus 
out of gear with the Higher Will, and to set it revolving 
around its own self-centre. It was, in reality, the same 
temptation, in a slightly altered form, which had been 
only too successful with the first Adam. 

The thought, however, was no sooner suggested than 
it was rejected ; for Jesus had a wonderful power of 
reading thought, of looking into its very heart; and 
He meets the evil suggestion, not with an answer of 
His own, but with a singularly apt quotation from the 
Old Testament ; " It is written, Man shall not live by 
bread alone." The reference is to a parallel experience 
in the history of Israel, a narrative from which doubt- 
less Jesus had drawn both strength and solace during 
His prolonged desert fast. Had not the Divine Voice 
adopted Israel to a special relationship and privilege, 
announcing within the palace of Pharaoh, " Israel is My 
Son, My firstborn " ? (Exod. iv. 22). And yet had not 
God led Israel for forty years through the desert, 
suffering him to hunger, that He might humble and 
prove him, and show him that meji are 

"Better than sheep and goats, 
That nourish a blind life within the brain ; " 

that maji has a nature, a life, that cannot Jive on 'bread, 
but as St. Matthew completes the quotation "by 
every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God " ? 
Some h^ve supposed that by "bread alone" Jesus 
refers to the manifold provision God has made for man's 
physical sustenance; th&t He is not limited to one 
course, but that He cap just as easily supply flesh, or 
manna, or a thousand things besides. But evidently 


such is not the meaning of Jesus. It was not His 
wont to speak in such literal, commonplace ways. His 
thought moved in higher circles than His speech, and 
we must look upward through the letter to find the 
higher spirit. " 1 have meat to eat that ye know not 
of," said Jesus to His disciples ; and when He caught 
the undertone of their literalistic questions He explained 
His meaning in words that will interpret His answer to 
the tempter : " My meat is to do the will of Him that 
sent Me." So now it is as if He said, " The Will of 
God is My meat That Will brought Me hither ; that 
Will detains Me here. Nay, that Will commands Me to 
fast and hunger, and so abstinence from food is itself 
My food. I do not fear. This wilderness is but the 
stone-paved court of My Father's house, whose many 
chambers are filled with treasures, ' bread enough and 
to spare/ and can I perish with hunger ? I wait His 
time ; I accept His will ; nor will I tas.te of bread that is 
not of His sending." 

< The tempter was foiled. The specious temptation 
fell upon the mind of Jesus like a spark in the sea, to 
be quenched, instantly and utterly ; and though Satan 
found a powerful lever in the pinch of the terrible 
hunger one of the sorest pains our human nature can 
f ee l y e t even then he could not wrench the will of 
Jesus from the will of God. The first Adam doubted, 
and then disobeyed ; the Second Adam rests in God's 
will and word ; and like the limpet on the rocks, washed 
by angry waves, the pressure of the outward storm only 
unites His will more firmly to the Father's ; nor does it 
for one moment break in upon that rest of soul. And 
Jesus never did make use of His miraculous power 
solely for His own benefit. He would live as a man 
among men, feeling probably more intensely than we 


do all the weaknesses and pains of humanity, that He 
might be more truly the Son of man, the sympathizing 
High Priest, the perfect Saviour. He became in all 
points sin excepted one with us, so that we might 
become one with Him, sharing with Him the Father's 
love on earth, and then sharing His heavenly joys. 

Baffled, but not confessing himself beaten, the temp- 
ter returns to the charge. St. Luke here inverts the 
order of St. Matthew, giving as the second tempta- 
tion what St. Matthew places last. We prefer the 
order of St. Luke, not only because in general he is 
more observant of chronology, but because there is in 
the three temptations what we might call a certain 
seriality, which demands the second place for the 
mountain temptation. It is not necessary that we put 
a literal stress upon the narrative, supposing that Jesus 
was transported bodily to the " exceeding high moun- 
tain." Not only has such a supposition an air of the 
incredulous about it, but it is set aside by the terms of 
the narrative itself; for the expression he u showed 
Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of 
time" cannot be forced into a literalistic mould. It 
is easier and more natural to suppose that this and 
the succeeding temptation were presented only to the 
spirit of Jesus, without any physical accessories; for 
a&er all, it is not the eye that sees, but the soul. The 
bodily eye had not seen the " great sheet let down from 
feeaven," but it was a real vision, nevertheless, leading 
to very practical results the readjustment of Peter's 
views of duty, and the opening of the door of grace and 
privilege to the Gentiles. It was but a mental picture, 
as the "man of Macedonia" appeared to Paul, but 
the vision was intensely real more real, if that were 
possible, than the leagues of intervening sea; and 


louder to him than all the voices of the deep of winds, 
and waves, and storm was the voice, " Come over and 
help us," the cry which only the ear of the soul had 
heard. It was in a similar manner, probably, that the 
second temptation was presented to Jesus. 

He finds Himself upon a lofty eminence, when 
suddenly, "in a moment of time/' as St. Luke ex- 
presses it, the world lies unveiled at His feet. Here 
are fields white with ripened harvests, vineyards red 
with clustering grapes, groves of olives shimmering in 
the sunlight like frosted silver, rivers threading their 
'way through a sea of green; here are cities on cities 
innumerable, quivering with the tread of uncounted 
millions, streets set with statues, and adorned with 
temples, palaces, and parks ; here are the flagged Roman 
roads, all pointing to the world's great centre, thronged 
with chariots and horsemen, the legions of war, and 
the caravans of trade. Beyond are seas where a thou- 
sand ships are skimming over the blue; While still 
beyond, all environed with temples, is the palace of 
the Caesars, the marble pivot around which the world 

Such Was the splendid scene set before the mind of 
Jesus. tl All this is mirie," said Satan, speaking a half- 
truth which is often but a Whole lie ; for he Was indeed 
the " prince of the poWer of the air*/' ruling, however, 
Hot in absolute kingship, but as a pretender, a Usurper ; 
"and I give it to whom I will. Only worship me (of 
rather, ' do homage to me as YdUr superior '), and all 
shall be thine." Amplified, the temptation was this: 
"You are the Son of God, the MeSsiah-King, but a 
King without a retinue, without a throne. I know well 
all the devious, somewhat slippery ways to royalty ; and 
if You Will but assent to rhy plan, and work on my lines, 


I can assure You of a throne that is higher, and of a 
realm that is vaster, than that of Caesar. To begin 
with: You have powers not given to other mortals, 
miraculous powers. You can command nature as easily 
as You can obey her. Trade with these at first, freely. 
Startle men with prodigies, and so create a name and 
gain a following. Then when that is sufficiently large 
set up the standard of revolt. The priesthood and the 
people will flock to it ; Pharisees and Sadducees, giving 
up their paper-chases after phantoms, shadows, will 
forget their strife in the peace of a common war, and 
before a united people Rome's legions must retire. 
Then, pushing out Your borders, and avoiding reverse 
and disaster by a continual appeal to Your miraculous 
powers, one after another You will make the neigh- 
bouring nations dependent and tributary. So, little by 
little, You will hem in the might of Rome, until by one 
desperate struggle You will vanquish the Empire. The 
lines of history will then be all reversed. Jerusalem 
will become the mistress, the capital of the world ; 
along all these roads swift messengers shall carry Your 
decrees ; Your word shall be law, and Your will over 
all human wills shall be supreme." 

Such was the meaning of the second temptation. 
It was the chord of ambition Satan sought to strike, 
a chord whose vibrations are so powerful in the human 
heart, often drowning or deafening other and sweeter 
voices. He put before Jesus the highest possible goal, 
that of universal empire, and showed how that goal 
was comparatively easy of attainment, if Jesus would 
only follow his directions and work oh his plans. The 
objective point at which the tempter aimed was, as 
in the first temptation, to shift Jesus from the Divine 
purpose, to detach His will frdm trie Father's will, 


and to Induce Him to set up a sort of independence. 
The life of Jesus, instead of moving on steadily around 
its Divine centre, striking in with absolute precision 
to the beat of the Divine purpose, should revolve only 
around the centre of its narrower self, exchanging 
its grander, heavenlier sweep for certain intermittent, 
eccentric motions of its own. If Satan could not pre- 
vent the founding of "the kingdom," he would, if it 
were possible, change its character. It should not be 
the kingdom of heaven, but a kingdom of earth, pure 
and simple, under earthly conditions and earthly laws. 
Might should take the place of right, and force the 
place of love. He would set Jesus after gaming the 
whole world, that so He might forget that His mission 
was to save it. Instead of a Saviour, they should 
have a Sovereign, decked with this world's glory and 
the pomps of earthly empire. 

It is easy to see that if Jesus had been merely man 
the temptation would have been most subtle and most 
powerful; for how many of the sons of men, alas, 
have been led astray from the Divine purpose with a 
far less bait than a whole world ! A momentary 
pleasure, a handful of glittering dust the more, some 
dream of place or fame these are more than enough 
to tempt men to break with God. But while Jesus was 
man, the Perfect Man, He was more. The Holy Spirit 
was now given to Him without measure. From the 
beginning His will had been subordinate to the Father's, 
growing up within it and configuring itself to it, even 
as the ductile metal receives the shape of the mould. 
The Divine purpose, too, had now been revealed to 
Him in the vivid enlightenment of the Baptism ; for the 
shadow of the cross was thrown back over His life, 
at any rate as far as the Jordan. And so the second 


temptation fell harmless as the first The chord of 
ambition Satan sought to strike was not found in 
the pure soul of Jesus, and all these visions of victory 
and empire awoke no response in His heart, any more 
than the flower-wreaths laid upon the breast of the 
dead can quicken the beat of the now silent heart. 

The answer of Jesus was prompt and decisive. Not 
deigning to use any words of His own, or to hold any 
parley, even the shortest, He meets the word of the 
tempter with a Divine word : " It is written, Thou 
shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt 
thou serve." The tempting thought is something 
foreign to the mind of Jesus, something unwelcome, 
repulsive, and it is rejected instantly. Instead of 
allowing Himself to be diverted from the Divine 
purpose, His will detached from the Father's will, He 
turns to that will and word at once. It is His refuge, 
His home. The thought of Jesus cannot pass beyond 
the circle of that will, any more than a dove can pass 
beyond the over-arching sky. He sees the Throne 
that is above all thrones, and gazing upon that, worship- 
ping only the Great King, who is over all and in all, 
the thrones and crowns of earthly dominion are but as 
motes of the air. The victory was complete. Quickly 
as it came, the splendid vision conjured up by the 
tempter disappeared, and Jesus turned away from the 
path of earthly glory, where power without measure 
and honours without number awaited Him, to tread 
the solitary, lowly path of submission and of sacrifice, 
the path that had a crucifixion, and not a coronation, 
as its goal. 

Twice baffled, the enemy comes once again to the 
charge, completing the series with the pinnacle temp- 
tation, to which St. Luke naturally, and as we think 


rightly, gives the third place. It follows the other 
two in orderly sequence; and It cannot well be placed 
second, as in St. Matthew, without a certain over- 
lapping of thought If we must adhere to the litera- 
listic interpretation, and suppose Jesus led up to 
Jerusalem bodily, then, perhaps, St. Matthew's order 
would be more natural, as that would not necessitate 
a return to the wilderness. But that is an interpreta- 
tion to which we are not bound. Neither the words 
of the narrative nor the conditions of the temptation 
require it ; an d when art represents Jesus as flying 
with the tempter through the air it is a representation 
both grotesque and gratuitous. Thus far, in his tempta- 
tions, Satan has been foiled by the faith of Jesus, the 
implicit trust He reposed in the Father; but if he 
cannot break in upon that trust, causing it to doubt 
or disobey, may he not push the virtue too far, goading 
Him "to sin in loving virtue"? If the mind and 
heart of Jesus are so grooved in with the lines of the 
Divine will that he cannot throw them off the metals, 
or make them reverse their wheels, perhaps he may 
push them forward so fast and so far as to bring about 
the collision he seeksthe clash of the two wills. It 
is the only chance left him, a forlorn hope, it is true, 
but still a hope, and Satan moves forward, if per- 
chance he may realize it. 

As in the second temptation, the wilderness fades 
out of sight. Suddenly Jesus finds Himself standing 
on the pinnacle of the Temple, probably the eastern 
corner of the royal portico. On the one side, deep 
below, were the Temple courts, crowded with throngs 
of worshippers; on the other lay the gorge of the 
Kedron, a giddy depth, which made the eye of the 
down looker to swim, and the brain to reel. " If (or 


rather * Since ') said Satan, Thou art the Son of God, 
cast Thyself down from hence ; for it is written, He 
shall give His angels charge concerning Thee, to guard 
Thee; on their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest 
haply Thou dash Thy foot against a stone." It is as 
if he said, "You are the Son of God, in a special, 
favoured sense. You are set in title and authority 
above the angels ; they are Your ministering servants ; 
and You reciprocate the trust Heaven reposes in You. 
The will of God is more to You than life itself; the 
word of God outweighs with You thrones and empires. 
And You do well. Continue thus, and no harm can 
overtake You. And just to show how absolute is Your 
faith in God, cast Yourself down from this height. You 
need not fear, for You will but throw Yourself upon 
the word of God ; and You have only to speak, and 
unseen angels will crowd the air, bearing You up in 
their hands. Cast Yourself down, and so test and 
attest Your faith in God ; and doing so You will give 
to these multitudes indubitable proof of Your Sonship 
and Messiahship." Such was the argument, specious, 
but fallacious, of the tempter. Misquoting Scripture by 
omitting its qualifying clause, distorting the truth into 
a dangerous error, he sought to impale his Victim on 
the horn of a dilemma. But Jesus was on the alert. 
He recognized at once the seductive thought, though, 
Jacob-like, it had come robed in the assumed dress of 
Scripture. Is not obedience as sacred as trust? Is 
not obedience the life, the soul of trust, without which 
the trust itself is but a semblance, a decaying, corrupt 
thing" ? But Satan asks Him to disobey, to set Him- 
self above t the laws by which the world is governed. 
Instead of His will being entirely subordinate, conform- 
ing itself itl all things to the Divine will, if He should 


cast Himself down from this pinnacle it would be 
putting pressure upon that Divine will, forcing it to 
repeal its own physical laws, or at any rate to suspend 
their action for a time. And what would that be but 
insubordination, no longer faith, but presumption, a 
tempting, and not a trusting God? The Divine 
promises are not cheques made payable to " bearer/' 
regardless of character, place, or time, and to be realized 
by any one who may happen to possess himself of them, 
anywhere. They are cheques drawn out to "order," 
crossed cheques, too, negotiated only as the conditions 
of character and time are fulfilled. The Divine protec- 
tion and guardianship are indeed assured to every child 
of God, but only as he " dwelleth in the secret place 
of the Most High, as he abides under the shadow of 
the Almighty ; " in other words, so long as " thy ways " 
are " His ways." Step out from that pavilion of the 
Most High, and you step from under the bright bow 
of promise. Put yourself above, or put yourself out 
of, the Divine order of things, and the very promise 
becomes a threatening, and the cloud that else would 
protect and guide becomes a cloud full of suppressed 
thunders, and flashing in vivid lightnings its thousand 
swords of flame. Faith and fidelity are thus insepa- 
rable. The one is the calyx, the other the involved 
corolla; and as they open outwards into the perfect 
flower they turn towards the Divine will, configuring 
themselves in all things to that will. 

A third time Jesus replied to the tempter in 
words of Old Testament Scripture, and a third time, 
too, from the same book of Deuteronomy. It will be 
observed, however, that the terms of His^ reply are 
slightly altered. He no longer uses the " It is written," 
since Satan himself has borrowed that word, but sub- 


stitutes another : "It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the 
Lord thy God." It has been thought by some that 
Jesus used the quotation in an accommodated sense, 
referring the " Thou " to the tempter himself, and so 
making " the Lord thy God " an attestation of His own 
Divinity. But such an interpretation is forced and 
unnatural. Jesus would not be likely to hide the deep' 
secret from His own disciples, and announce it for the 
first time to the ears of the seducer. It is an impos- 
sible supposition: Besides, too, it was as man that 
Jesus was tempted. Only on the side of His humanity 
could the enemy approach Him, and for Jesus now to 
take refuge in His Divinity would strip the temptation 
of all its meaning, making it a mere acting. But Jesus 
does not so throw up humanity, or which is the same 
thing, take Himself out of it, and when He says, 
" Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God " He includes 
Himself in the " them." Son though He is, He must 
put Himself under the law that prescribes the relations 
of man towards God. He must learn obedience as 
other sons of men. He must submit, that He may 
serve, 'not seeking to impose His will upon the Father's 
will, even by way of suggestion, much less by way of 
demand, but waiting upon that will in an absolute 
self-surrender and instant acquiescence. Moses must 
not command the cloud ; all that he is permitted to 
do is to observe it and follow. To go before God is 
to go without God, and to go without Him is to go 
against Him ; and as to the angels bearing Him up in 
their hands, that depends altogether upon the path and 
the errand. Let it be the Divinely ordered path, and 
the unseen convoys of heaven will attend, a sleepless, 
invincible guard ; but let it be some self-chosen path, 
some forbidden way, and the angel's sword will flash 


its warning, and send the foot of the unfaithful servant 
crushing against the wall. 

And so the third temptation failed, as did the other 
two. With but a little tension, Satan had made the will 
of the first Adam to strike a discordant note, throwing 
it out of all harmony with the Higher Will ; but by no 
pressure, no enticements, can he influence the Second 
Adam. His will vibrates in a perfect consonance with 
the Father's, even under the terrible pressure of 
hunger, and the more terrible pressure, the fearful 
impact of evil. 

So Satan completed, and so Jesus resisted, " every 
temptation "that is, every form of temptation. In 
the jrot, Jesus was tempted on the side of His gjijsical 
nature; in the second the attack was on the side of 
His intellectual nature, looking out on His political 
life; while in the third the assault was on the side of 
His spiritual life. In the first He is tempted as the 
Man, in the second as the Messiah, and in the third as 
the Divine Son. In the first temptation He is asked 
to make use of His newly received miraculous power 
over nature passive, unthinking nature ; in the second 
He is asked to throw it over the "world," which in 
this case is a synonym for humankind ; while in the 
third He is asked to widen the reajm of His authority, 
and to command the angels, nay, God Himself. So 
the three temptations are really one, though the fields, 
of battle lie in three several planes. And the aim wag 
one. It was to create a divergence between the, two 
wills, and to set the Son in a sort of antagonism to the 
Father, which would have been another Absalom revolt, 
a Divine mutiny it is impossible for us even to 
conceive. *" 

St. Luke omits in his narrative the ministry of 


angels mentioned by the other two Synoptists, a sweet 
postlude we should have missed much, had it been 
wanting; but he gives us instead the retreat of the 
adversary : " He departed from Him for a season." 
How long a season it was we do not know, but a 
brief one it must have been, for again and again in 
the story of the Gospels we see the dark shadow of 
the evil one ; while in Gethsemane the " prince of 
this world " cometh, but to find nothing in " Me." 
And what was the horror of great darkness, that 
strange eclipse of soul Jesus suffered upon Calvary, 
but the same fearful presence, intercepting for a time 
even the Father's smile, and throwing upon the pure 
and patient Sufferer a strip of the outer darkness itself? 
The test was over. Tried in the fires of a persistent 
assault, the faith and obedience of Jesus were found 
perfect. The shafts of the tempter had recoiled upon 
himself, leaving all stainless and scatheless the pure 
soul of Jesus. The Son of man had conquered, that 
all other sons of men may learn the secret of constant 
and complete victory ; how faith overcomes, putting to 
flight " the armies of the aliens," and making even the 
weakest child of God " more than conqueror." And 
from the wilderness, where innocence has ripened into 
virtue, Jesus passes up, like another Moses, " in the 
power of the Spirit/' to challenge the world's magi- 
cians, tp baffle their sjeight of hand and skill of speech, 
and to proclaim to redeemed humanity a. new 
a' life-Ion^ Jufeike. 


T IMMEDIATELY after the Temptation Jesus returned, 
1 "in the power of the Spirit/' and with all the 
added strength of His recent victories, to Galilee. Into 
what parts of Galilee He came, our Evangelist does 
not say ; but omitting the visit to Cana, and dismissing 
the first Galilean tour with a sentence how " He 
taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all " 
St. Luke goes on to record in detail the visit of Jesus 
to Nazareth, and His rejection by His townsmen. In 
putting this narrative in the forefront of his Gospel is 
St. Luke committing a chronological error ? or is he, 
as some suppose, purposely antedating the Nazareth 
story, -that it may stand as a frontispiece to his Gospel, 
or that it may serve as a key for the after-music? 
This is the view held by most of our expositors and 
harmonists, but, as it appears to us, on insufficient 
grounds ; the balance of probability is against it. It 
is true that St. Matthew and St. Mark record a visit to 
Nazareth which evidently occurred at a later period of 
His ministry. It is true also that between their narra- 
tives and this of St. Luke there are some striking 
resemblances, such as the teaching in the synagogue 
the astonishment of His hearers, their reference to His 
parentage, and then the reply of Jesus as to a prophet 
receiving scant honour in his own country resem- 


blances which would seem to indicate that the two 
narratives were in reality one. But still it is possible 
to push these resemblances too far, reading out from 
them what we have first read into them. Let us for 
the moment suppose that Jesus made two visits to 
Nazareth ; and is not such a supposition both reasonable 
and natural ? It is not necessary that the first rejection 
should be a final rejection, for did not the Jews seek 
again and again to kill Him, before the cross saw their 
dire purpose realized ? Remaining for so long in 
Galilee, would it not be a most natural wish on the 
part of Jesus to see the home of His boyhood once 
again, and to give to His townspeople one parting word 
before taking His farewell of Galilee ? And suppose 
He did, what then ? Would He not naturally go to 
the synagogue as was His custom in every place 
and speak ? And would they not listen with the same 
astonishment, and then harp on the very same questions 
as to His parentage and brotherhood questions that 
would have their readiest and fittest answer in the 
same familiar proverb ? Instead, then, of these resem- 
blances identifying the two narratives, and proving that 
St. Luke's story is but an amplification of the narratives 
of the other Synoptists, the resemblances themselves 
are what we might naturally expect in our supposition 
of a second visit. But if there are certain coincidences 
between the two narratives, there are marked differ- 
ences, which make it extremely improbable that the 
Synoptists are recording one event. In the visit re- 
corded by St. Luke there were no miracles wrought; 
while St Matthew and St. Mark tell us that He could 
not do many mighty works there, because of their 
unbelief, but that He "laid His hands on a few sick 
folk, and healed them." In the narrative by St. Mark 



we read that His disciples were with Him while St. 
Luke makes no mention of His disciples ; but St. Luke 
does mention the tragic ending of the visit, the attempt 
of the men of Nazareth to hurl Him down from a lofty 
cliff, an incident St. Matthew and St. Mark omit alto- 
gether. But can we suppose the men of Nazareth 
would have attempted this, had the strong body-guard 
of disciples been with Jesus ? Would they be likely 
to stand by, timidly acquiescent ? Would not Peter's 
sword have flashed instantly from its scabbard, in 
defence of Him whom he served and dearly loved ? 
That St. Matthew and St. Mark should make no refer- 
ence to this scene of violence, had it occurred at the 
visit they record, is strange and unaccountable ; and 
the omission is certainly an indication, if not a proof, 
that the Synoptists are describing two separate visits 
to Nazareth the one, as narrated by St. Luke, at the 
commencement of His ministry; and the other at a later 
date, probably towards its close. And with this view 
the substance of the Nazareth address perfectly accords. 
The whole address has the ring of an inaugural mes- 
sage ; it is the voice of an opening spring, and not of a 
waning summer. " This day is this Scripture fulfilled 
in your ears" is the blast of the silver trumpet 
announcing the beginning of the Messianic year, the 
year of a truer, wider Jubilee, 

It seems to us, therefore, that the chronology of St. 
Luke is perfectly correct, as he places in the forefront 
of his Gospel the earlier visit to Nazareth, and the 
violent treatment Jesus there received. At the second 
visit there was still a widespread unbelief, which caused 
Jesus to marvel ; but there was no attempt at violence, 
for His disciples were with Him now, while the report 
of His Judsean ministry, which had gone before Him, 


and the miracles He wrought in their presence ; had 
softened down even Nazareth prejudices and asperities. 
The events of the first Galilean tour were probably in 
the following order. Jesus, with His five disciples, 
goes to Cana, invited guests at the marriage, and here 
He opens His miraculous commission, by turning the 
water into wine. From Cana they proceed to Caper- 
naum, where they remain for a short time, Jesus 
preaching in their synagogue, and probably continuing 
His miraculous works. Leaving His disciples behind 
at Capernaum for between the preliminary call by 
the Jordan and the final call by the lake the fisher- 
disciples get back to their old occupations for a while 
Jesus goes up to Nazareth, with His mother and 
His brethren. Thence, after His violent rejection, He 
returns to Capernaum, where He calls His disciples 
from their boats and receipt of custom, probably com- 
pleting the sacred number before setting out on His 
journey southward to Jerusalem. If this harmony be 
correct and the weight of probability seems to be in 
its favour then the address at Nazareth, which is the 
subject for our consideration now, would be the first 
recorded utterance of Jesus ; for thus far Cana gives 
us one startling miracle, while in Capernaum we find 
the report of His acts, rather than the echoes of His 
words. And that St. Luke alone should give us this 
incident, recording it in such a graphic manner, would 
almost imply that he had received the account from an 
eye-witness, probably if we may gather anything from 
the Nazarene tone of St. Luke's earlier pages from 
some member of the Holy Family. 

Jesus has now fairly embarked upon His Messianic 
mission, and He begins that mission, as prophecy had 
long foretold He should, in Galilee of the Gentiles. 


The rumour of His wonderful deeds at Cana and 
Capernaum had already preceded Him thither, when 
Jesus came once again to the home of His childhood 
and youth. Going, as had been His custom from 
boyhood, into the synagogue on the Sabbath day 
(St Luke is writing for Gentiles who are unversed 
in Jewish customs), Jesus stood up to read. "The 
Megilloth," or Book of the Prophets, having been 
handed to Him, He unrolled the book, and read the 
passage in Isaiah (Ixi. i) to which His mind had been 
Divinely directed, or which He had purposely chosen : 

" The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, 

Because He anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor, 
He hath sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, 
And recovering of sight to the blind, 
To set at liberty them that are bruised, 
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." 

Then closing, or rolling up, the book, and handing 
it back to the attendant, Jesus sat down, and began 
His discourse. The Evangelist does not record any of 
the former part of the 'discourse, but simply gives us 
the effect produced, in the riveted gaze and the rising 
astonishment of His auditors, as they caught up eagerly 
His sweet and gracious words. Doubtless, He would 
explain the words of the prophet, first in their literal, 
and then in their prophetic sense; and so far He 
carried the hearts of His hearers with Him, for who 
could speak of their Messianic hopes without awaking 
sweet music in the Hebrew heart ? But directly Jesus 
applies the passage to Himself, and says, "This day 
is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears/' the fashion 
of their countenance alters; the Divine emphasis He 
puts upon the ME curdles in their heart, turning their 
pleasure and wonder into incredulity, envy, and a 


perfect frenzy of rage. The primary reference of the 
prophecy seems to have been to the return of Israel 
from captivity. It was a political Jubilee he pro- 
claimed, when Zion should have a " garland for ashes," 
when the captive should be free, and aliens should be 
their servants. But the flowers of Scripture are mostly 
double ; its pictures and parables have often a nearer 
meaning, and another more remote, or a spiritual, 
involved in the literal sense. That it was so here is 
evident, for Jesus takes this Scripture which we 
might call a Babylonish garment, woven out of the Exile 
and wraps it around Himself, as if it belonged to 
Himself alone, and were so intended from the very first 
His touch thus invests it with a new significance ; and 
making this Scripture a vestment for Himself, Jesus, 
so to speak, shakes out its narrower folds, and gives it 
a wider, an eternal meaning. But why should Jesus 
select this passage above all others ? Were not the 
Old Testament Scriptures full of types, and shadows, 
and prophecies which testified of Him, any one of 
which He might have appropriated now? Yes, but 
no other passage so completely answered His design, 
no other was so clearly and fully declarative of His 
earthly mission. And so Jesus selected this picture of 
Isaiah, which was at once a prophecy and an epitome 
of His own Gospel, as His inaugural message, His 

The Mosaic Code, in its play upon the temporal 
octaves, had made provision, not only for a weekly 
Sabbath, and for a Sabbath year, but it completed its 
cycle of festivals by setting apart each 'fiftieth year as 
a year of special grace and gladness. It was the year 
of redemption and restoration, when all debts were 
remitted, when the family inheritance, which by the 


pressure of the times had been alienated, reverted to its 
original owner, and when those who had mortgaged 
their personal liberty regained their freedom. The 
" Jubilee " year, as they called it putting into its name 
ihe play of the priestly trumpets which ushered it in 
was thus the Divine safeguard against monopolies, a 
Divine provision for a periodic redistribution of the 
wealth and privileges of the theocracy; while at the same 
time it served to keep intact the separate threads of 
family life, running its lines of lineage down through the 
centuries, and across into the New Testament. Seizing 
upon this ; the gladdest festival of Hebrew life, Jesus 
likens Himself to one of the priests, who with trumpet 
of silver proclaims "the acceptable year of the Lord." 
He finds in that Jubilee a type of His Messianic year, 
a year that shall bring, not to one chosen race alone, 
but to a world of debtors and captives, remissions and 
manumissions without number, ushering in an era of 
liberty and gladness. And so in these words, adapted 
and adopted from Isaiah, Jesus announces Himself as 
the world's Evangelist, and Healer, and Emancipator ; 
or separating tke general message into its prismatic 
colours, we have the three characteristics of Christ's 
Gospel (i) as the Gospel of Love ; (2) the Gospel of 
Light; and (3) the Gospel of Liberty. 

r. The Gospel of Jesus was the Gospel of Love. 
" He anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor." 
That there is a Gospel even in the Old Testament no 
one will attempt to deny, and able writers have delighted 
in tracing out the evangelism that, like hidden veins 
of gold, runs here and there, now embedded deep in his- 
torical strata, and now cropping out in the current of 
prophetical speech. Still, an ear but little trained to har- 
monies can detect a marvellous difference between the 


tone of the Old and the tone of the New Dispensation. 
"Evangelists" is scarcely the name we should give 
to the prophets and preachers of the Old Testament, 
if we except that prophet of the dawn, Isaiah. They 
came, not as the bearers of glad tidings, but with the 
pressure, the burden of a terrible " woe " upon them. 
With a voice of threat and doom they recall Israel 
back to the ways of fidelity and purity, and with the 
caustic of biting words they seek to burn out the 
cancer of national corruption. They were no doves, 
those old-time prophets, building their nests in the 
blossoming olives, in soft accents telling of a winter 
past and a summer near ; they were storm-birds rather, 
beating with swift, sad wings on the crest of sullen 
waves, or whirling about among the torn shrouds. 
Even the eremite Baptist brought no evangel. He was 
a sad man, with a sad message, telling, not of the right 
which men should do, but of the wrong they should 
not do, his ministry, like that of the law, being a 
ministry of condemnation. Jesus, however, announces 
Himself as the world's Evangelist He declares that 
He is anointed and commissioned to be the bearer of 
good; glad tidings to man. At once the Morning Star 
and Sun, He comes to herald a new day ; nay, He 
comes to make that day. And so it was. We cannot 
listen to the words of Jesus without noticing the high 
and heavenly pitch to which their music is set. Be- 
ginning with the Beatitudes, they move on in the higher 
spaces, striking the notes of courage, hope, and faith, 
and at last, in the guest-chamber, dropping down to 
their key-note, as they close with an eirenicon and a 
benediction. How little Jesus played upon men's 
fears! how, instead, He sought to inspire them with 
new hopes, telling of the possibilities of goodness, the 


perfections which were within reach of even the human 
endeavour! How seldom you catch the tone of de- 
spondency in His words! As He summons men to 
a life of purity, unselfishness, and faith, His are not the 
voice and mien of one who commands to a forlorn hope. 
There is the ring of courage, conviction, certainty about 
His tone, a hopefulness that was itself half a victory. 
Jesus was no Pessimist, reading over the grave of 
departed glories His " ashes to ashes ; " He who knew 
our human nature best had most hopes of it, for He 
saw the Deity that was back of it and within it. 

And just here we touch what we may call the funda- 
mental chord in the Gospel of Jesus, the Fatherhood 
of God ; for though we can detect other strains running 
through the music of the Gospel, such as the Love of 
God, the Grace of God, and the Kingdom of God, yet 
these are but the consonant notes completing the har- 
monic scale, or the variations that play about the Divine 
Fatherhood. To the Hebrew conception of God this 
was an element altogether new. To their mind JEHOVAH 
is the Lord of hosts, an invisible, absolute Power, 
inhabiting the thick darkness, and speaking in the fire. 
Sinai thus throws its shadow across the Old Testa- 
ment Scriptures, and men inhale an atmosphere of law 
rather than of love. 

. But what a transformation was wrought in the world's 
thought and life as Jesus unfolded the Divine Father- 
hood ! It altered the whole aspect of man's relation to 
God, with a change as marked and glorious as when 
our earth turns its face more directly to the sun, to find 
its summer. The Great King, whose will commanded 
all forces, became the Great Father, in whose compas- 
sionate heart the toiling children of men might find 
refuge and rest. The " Everlasting Arms " were none 


the less strong and omnipotent ; but as Jesus uncovered 
them they seemed less distant, less rigid ; they became 
so near and so gentle, the weakest child of earth might 
not fear to lay its tired heart upon them. Law was 
none the less mighty, none the less majestic, but it was 
now a transfigured law, all lighted up and suffused with 
love. No longer was life one round of servile tasks, 
demanded by an inexorable, invisible Pharaoh ; no 
longer was it a trampled playground, where all the 
flowers are crushed, as Fate and Chance take their 
alternate innings. No ; life was ennobled, adorned with 
new and rare beauties; and when Jesus opened the 
gate of the Divine Fatherhood the light that was 
beyond, and that " never was on sea or land," shone 
through, putting a heavenliness upon the earthly, and 
a Divineness upon the human life. What better, gladder 
tidings could the poor (whether in spirit or in life) hear 
than this that heaven was no longer a distant dream, 
but a present and most precious reality, touching at 
every point, and enfolding their little lives ; that God 
was no longer hostile, or even indifferent to them, but 
that He cared for them with an infinite care, and loved 
them with an infinite love ? Thus did Jesus proclaim 
the " good tidings ; " for love, grace, redemption, and 
heaven itself" are all found within the compass of the 
Fatherhood. And He who gave to His disciples, in 
the Paternoster, a golden key for heaven's audience- 
chamber, speaks that sacred name " Father " even amid 
the agonies of the cross, putting the silver trumpet to 
His parched and quivering lips, so that earth may hear 
once again the music of its new and more glorious 

2. The Gospel of Jesus was a Gospel of Light. 
" And recovering of sight to the blind," which is the 


Septuagint rendering of the Hebrew passage In Isaiah, 
" the opening of the prison to them that are bound." 
At first sight this appears to be a break in the Jubilee 
idea; for physical cures, such as the healing of the 
blind, did not come within the scope of Jubilatic mercies. 
The original expression, however, contains a blending 
of figures, which together preserve the unity of the 
prophetic picture. Literally it reads, "The opening of 
the eyes to them that are bound ; " the figure being 
that of a captive, whose long captivity in the darkness 
has filmed his vision, and who now passes through the 
opened door of his prison into the light of day. 

In what way shall we interpret these words ? Are 
they to be taken literally, or spiritually ? or are both 
methods equally legitimate ? Evidently they are both 
intended, for Jesus was the Light-bringer in more senses 
than one. That the Messiah should signalize His 
advent by performing wonders and signs, and by work- 
ing physical cures, was certainly the teaching of pro- 
phecy, as it was a fixed and prominent hope in the 
expectation of the Jews. And so, when the despondent 
Baptist sent two of his disciples to ask " Art Thou He 
that should come ? " Jesus gave no direct answer, but 
turning from His questioners to the multitude of sick 
who pressed around Him, He healed their sick, and 
gave sight to many that were blind. Then returning 
to the surprised strangers, He bids them carry back to 
their master these visible proofs of His Messiahship 
how that ''lepers are cleansed, and the blind receive 
their sight." Jesus Himself had a wonderful power of 
vision. His eyes were Divinely bright, for they carried 
their own light. Not only had He the gift of pre- 
science, the forward-looking eye; He had what for 
want of a word we may call the gift of prescience, the 


eye that looked within, that saw the heart and soul of 
things. What a strange fascination there was in His 
very look! how it flashed like a subtle lightning, 
striking and scathing with its holy indignation the half- 
veiled meanness and hypocrisy ! and how again, like 
a beam of light, it fell upon Peter's soul, thawing the 
chilled heart, and opening the closed fountain of his 
tears, as an Alpine summer falls on the rigid glacier, 
and sends it rippling and singing through the lower 
vales. And had not Jesus an especial sympathy for 
cases of ophthalmic distress, paying to the blind a 
peculiar attention ? How quickly He responded to 
Bartimseus " What is it that I shall do for thee ? " 
as if Bartimseus were conferring the benefit by making 
his request. Where on the pages of the four Gospels 
do we find a picture more full of beauty and sublimity 
than when we read of Jesus taking the blind man by 
the hand, and leading him out of the town ? What 
moral grandeur and what touching pathos are there ! 
and how that stoop of gentleness makes Him great ! 
No other case is there of such prolonged and tender 
sympathy, where He not only opens the gates of day 
for the benighted, but leads the benighted one up to 
the gates. And why does Jesus make this difference 
in His miracles, that while other cures are wrought 
instantly, even the raising of the dead 3 with nothing 
more than a look, a word, or a touch, in healing the 
blind He should work the cure, as it were, in parts, or 
by using such intermediaries as clay, saliva, or the 
water of Siloam's pool ? Must it not have been inten- 
tional ? It would seem so, though what the purpose 
might be we can only guess. Was it so gradual an 
irtletting of the light, because a glare too bright and 
sudden tfro'ujd only confuse and blind? or did Jesus 


linger over the cure with the pleasure of one who loves 
to watch the dawn, as it paints the east with vermilion 
and gold? or did Jesus make use of the saliva and 
clay, that like crystal lenses, they might magnify His 
power, and show how His will was supreme, that 
He had a thousand ways of restoring sight, and that 
He had only to command even unlikely things, and 
light, or rather sight, should be? We do not know 
the purpose, but we do know that physical sight was 
somehow a favourite gift of the Lord Jesus, one that 
He handed to men carefully and tenderly. Nay, He 
Himself said that the man of Jerusalem had been born 
blind " that the works of God should be manifest in 
him ; " that is, his firmament had been for forty years 
darkened that his age, and all coming ages, might see 
shining within it the constellations of Divine Pity and 
Divine Power. 

But while Jesus knew well the anatomy of the 
natural eye, and could and did heal it of its disorders, 
putting within the sunken socket the rounded ball, or 
restoring to the optic nerve its lost powers, this was 
not the only sight He brought. To the companion 
clauses of this prophecy, where Jesus proclaims deliver- 
ance to the captives, and sets at liberty them that are 
bruised, we are compelled to give a spiritual interpre- 
tation ; and so " the recovering of sight to the blind " 
demands a far wider horizon than the literalistic sense 
offers. It speaks of the true Light which lighteth 
every man, that spiritual photosphere that environs 
and enswathes the soul, and of the opening and adjust- 
ing of the spiritual sense ; for as sight without light is 
darkness, so light without sight is darkness still. The 
two facts are thus related, each useless apart from the 
other, but together producing what we call vision. 


The recovering of sight to the blind is thus the uni- 
versal miracle. It is the " Let lights be " of the new 
Genesis, or, as we prefer to call it, the " regeneration." 
It is the dawn, which, breaking over the soul, broadens 
unto the perfect day, the heavenly, the eternal noon. 
Jesus Himself recognized this binoculism, this double 
vision. He says (John xvi. 16), "A little while, and 
ye behold Me no more ; and again a little while, and ye 
shall see Me," using ' two altogether different words 
the one speaking of the vision of the sense, the other 
of the deeper vision of the soul. And it was so. The 
disciples* vision of the Christ, at least so long as 
the bodily presence was with them, was the earthly, 
physical vision. The spiritual Christ was, in a sense, 
lost, masked in the corporeal. The veil of His flesh 
hung dense and heavy before their eyes, and not until 
it was uplifted on the cross, not until it was rent in 
twain, did they see the mysterious Holy Presence that 
dwelt within the veil. Nor was the clearer vision given 
them even now. The dust of the sepulchre was in 
their eyes, blurring, and for a time half-blinding them 
the anointing with the clay. The emptied grave, 
the Resurrection, was their " pool of Siloam," washing 
away the blinding clay, the dust of their gross, materi- 
alistic thoughts. Henceforth they saw Christ, not, as 
before, ever coming and going, but as the ever-present, 
the abiding One. In the fuller light of the Pentecostal 
flames the unseen Christ became more near and more 
real than the seen Christ ever was. Seeing Him as visible, 
their minds were holden, somewhat perplexed; they 
could neither accomplish much nor endure much ; but 
seeing Him who had become invisible, they were a com- 
pany of invincibles. They could do and they could en- 
dure anything; for was not the I AM with them always? 


Now, even in the physical vision there is a wonderful 
correspondence Between the sight and the soul, the 
prospect and introspect. As men read the outward 
world they see pretty much the shadow of themselves, 
their thoughts, feelings, and ideas. In the German 
fable the travelled stork had nothing to say about the 
beauty of the fields and wonders of the cities over 
which it passed, but it could, discourse at length about 
the delicious frogs it had found in a certain ditch. 
Exactly the same law rules up in the higher vision. 
Men see what they themselves love and are ; the sight 
is but a sort of projection of the soul. As St. Paul 
says, "The natural man receiveth not the things of 
God ; " the things which God hath prepared for them 
that love Him are " things which eye saw not, and ear 
heard not" And so Jesus gives sight by renewing the 
soul ; He creates around us a new heaven and a new 
earth, by creating a new, a clean heart within us. 
Within every soul there are the possibilities of a 
Paradise, but these possibilities are dormant. The 
natural heart is a chaos of confusion and darkness, 
until it turns towards Jesus as its Saviour and its 
Sun, and henceforth revolves around Him in its ever- 
narrowing circles. 

3. The Gospel of Jesus was a Gospel of Liberty. 
11 He hath sent Me to proclaim release to the cap- 
tives," " to set at liberty them that are bruised." The 
latter clause is not in the original prophecy, but is a 
rough adaptation of another passage in Isaiah (Iviii. 6). 
Probably it was quoted by Jesus in His address, and so 
was inserted by the Evangelist with the passages read ; 
for in the New Testament the quotations from the Old 
are grouped together by affinities of spirit, rather than 
by the law of textual continuity. The two passages 

y *w ' 


#** I 

are one in their proclamation and promise of liberty, 
but they by no means cover the same ground. The 
former speaks of the liberation of captives, those whom 
the exigencies of war or some change of fortune have 
thrown into prison ; the latter speaks of deliverance to 
the oppressed, those whose personal liberties may not 
be impawned, but whose lives are made hard and bitter 
under severe exactions, and whose spirits are broken, 
crushed beneath a weight of accumulated ills. Speak- 
ing generally, we should call the one an amnesty, and 
the other an enfranchisement; for one is the offer of 
freedom to the captive, the other of freedom to the 
slave ; while together they form an act of emancipation 
for humanity, enfranchising and ennobling each indivi- 
dual son of man, and giving to him, even the poorest, 
the freedom of God's world. 

In what sense, then, is Jesus the great Emancipator ? 
It would be easy to show that Jesus, personally, was a 
lover of freedom. He could not brook restraints. 
Antiquity, conventionalism, had no charms for Him. 
Keenly in touch with the present, He did not care to 
take the cold 4 , clammy hand of a dead Past, or allow it to 
prescribe His actions. Between the right and the wrong, 
the good and the evil, He put a wall of adamant, God's 
eternal u No ; " but within the sphere of the right, the 
good, He left room for largest liberties. He observed 
forms occasionally, at least but formalism He could 
not endure. And so Jesus was constantly coming into 
collision with the Pharisaic school of thought, the 
school of routinists, casuists, whose religion was a 
glossary of terms, a volume of formulas and negations. 
To the Pharisee religion was a cold, dead thing, a 
mummy, all enswathed in the cerecloths of tradition ; 
to Jesus it was a living soul within a living form, an 


angel of grace and beauty, whose wings would bear 
her aloft to higher, heavenlier spheres, and whose feet 
and hands fitted her just as well for the common walks 
of life, in a beautiful; every-day ministry of blessing. 
And how Jesus loved to give personal liberty to man 
to remove the restrictions disease had put around 
their activities, and to leave them physically, mentally 
free ! And what were His miracles of healing but pro- 
clamations of liberty, in the lowest sense of that word ? 
He found the human body enfeebled, enslaved ; here it 
was an arm, there an eye, so held in the grip of disease 
that it was as if dead. But Jesus said to Disease, 
"Loose that half-strangled life and let it go," and in an 
instant it was free to act and feel, finding its lesser 
jubilee* Jesus saw the human mind led into captivity. 
Reason was dethroned and immured in the dungeon, 
while the feet of lawless passions were trampling over- 
head. But when Jesus healed the demoniac, the im- 
becile, the lunatic, what was it but a mental jubilee, 
as He gives peace to a distracted soul, and leads 
banished Reason back to her Jerusalem? 

But these deliverances and liberties, glorious as they 
are, are but figures of the true, which is the en- 
franchisement of the soul. The disciples were per- 
plexed and sorely disappointed that Jesus should die 
without having wrought any " redemption" for Israel 
This was their one dream, that the Messiah should 
break in pieces the hated Roman yoke, and effect a 
political deliverance. But they see Him moving 
steadily to His goal, taking no note of their aspirations, 
or noticing them only to rebuke them, and scarce 
giving a passing glance to these Roman eagles, which 
darken the sky, and cast their ominous shadows over 
the homes and fields of Israel But Jesus had not 


come into the world to effect any local, political redemp- 
tion ; another Moses could have done that He had 
come to lead captive the captivity of Sin, as Zacharias 
had foretold, " that being delivered out of the hand of 
our (spiritual) enemies, we might serve Him without 
fear, in holiness and righteousness all the days of our 
life." The sphere of His mission was where His 
kingdom should be, in the great interior of the heart. 
A Prophet like unto Moses, but infinitely greater 
than he, He too leaves the palace, of the Eternal, lay- 
ing aside, not the robes of a prospective royalty, but 
the glories He possessed with the Father; He too 
assumes the dress, the speech, nay, the very nature, 
of the race He has come to redeem. And when no 
other ransom was sufficient He " offered Himself with- 
out spot to God," "our Passover, sacrified for us," so 
sprinkling the doorway of the new Exodus with His 
own blood. But here we stand on the threshold of 
a great mystery ; for if angels bend over the mercy- 
seat, desiring, but in vain, to read the secret of redemp- 
tion, how can our finite minds grasp the great thought 
and purpose of God ? We do know this, however, for 
it is the oft-repeated truth of Scripture, that the life, 
or, as St. Peter puts it, " the precious blood of Christ/' 
was, in a certain sense, our ransom, the price of our 
redemption. We say "in a certain sense/' for the 
figure breaks down if we press it unduly, as if Heaven 
had held a parley with the power that had enslaved 
man, and, at a stipulated price, had bought him off. 
That certainly was no part of the Divine purpose and 
fact of redemption. But an atonement was needed in 
order to make salvation possible ; for how could God, 
infinitely holy and just, remit the penalty due to sin 
with no expression of His abhorrence of sin, without 



destroying the dignity of law, and reducing justice to 
a mere name ? But the obedience and death of Christ 
were a satisfaction of infinite worth. They upheld the 
majesty of law, and at the same time made way for the 
interventions of Divine Love. The cross of Jesus 
was thus the place where Mercy and Truth met to- 
gether, and Righteousness and Peace kissed each 
other. It was at once the visible expression of God's 
deep hatred of sin ; and of His deep love to the sinner. 
And so, not virtually simply, in some far-off sense, but 
in truest reality, Jesus "died for our sins," Himself 
tasting death that we might have life, even the life 
"more abundant," the life everlasting; suffering Him- 
self to be led captive by the powers of sin, bound to 
the cross and imprisoned in a grave, that men might 
be free in all the glorious liberty of the children of 

But this deliverance from sin, the pardon for past 
offences, is but one part of the salvation Jesus provides 
and proclaims. Heaven's angel may light up the 
dungeon of the imprisoned soul ; he may strike off its 
fetters, and lead it forth into light and liberty ; but if 
Satan can reverse all this, and fling back the soul into 
captivity, what is that but a partial, intermittent salva- 
tion, so unlike Him whose name is Wonderful ? The 
angel said, " He shall save His people," not from the 
effects of their sin, from its guilt and condemnation 
alone, but " from their sins." That is, He shall give 
to the pardoned soul power over sin ; it shall no longer 
have dominion over him ; captivity itself shall be led 
captive; for 

" His grace, His love, His care 
Are wider than our utmost need, 
And higher than our prayer." 


Yes, verily ; and the life that is hid with Christ in 
God, that, with no side-glances at self, is set apart 
utterly to do the Divine will, that abandons itself to 
the perfect keeping of the perfect Saviour, will find on 
earth the " acceptable year of the Lord," its years, 
henceforth, years of liberty and victory, a prolonged 



WE should naturally expect that our physician- 
Evangelist would have a peculiar interest in 
Christ's connection with human suffering and disease, 
and in this we are not mistaken. 

It is almost a superfluous task to consider what our 
Gospels would have been had there been no miracles 
of healing to record ; but we may safely say that such 
a blank would be inexplicable, if not impossible. Even 
had prophesy been utterly silent on the subject, should 
we not look for the Christ to signalize His advent and 
reign upon earth by manifestations of His Divine 
power ? A Man amongst men, human yet superhuman, 
how can He manifest the Divinity that is within, except 
by the flashings forth of His supernatural power? 
Speech, however eloquent, however true, could not do 
this. There must be a background of deeds, visible 
credentials of authority and power, or else the words 
are weak and vain but the play of a borealis in the 
sky, beautiful and bright indeed, but distant, inopera- 
tive, and cold. If the prophets of old, who were but 
acolytes swinging their lamps and singing their songs 
before the coming Christ, were allowed to attest their 
commission by occasional enduements of miraculous 
power, must not the Christ Himself prove His super- 


humanity by fuller measures and exhibitions of the 
same power ? And where can He manifest this so 
well as in connection with the world's suffering, need, 
and pain? Here is a background prepared, and all 
dark enough in sooth ; where can He write so well 
that men may read His messages of good-will, love, and 
peace? Where can He put His sign manual, His 
Divine autograph, better than on this firmament of 
human sorrow, disease, and woe ? And so the miracles 
of healing fall naturally into the story ; they are the 
natural and necessary accompaniments of the Divine 
life upon earth. 

The first miracle that Jesus wrought was in the 
home at Cana ; His first miracle of healing was in the 
synagogue. He thus placed Himself in 'the two pivotal 
centres of our earthly life; for that life, with its 
heavenward and earthward aspects, revolves about the 
synagogue and the home. He touches our human life 
alike on its temporal and its spiritual side. To a 
nature like that of Jesus, which had an intense love 
for what was real and true, and as intense a scorn for 
what was superficial and unreal, it would seem as if 
a Hebrew synagogue would offer but few attractions. 
True, it served as the visible symbol of religion ; it was 
the shrine where the Law and the Prophets spoke ; 
what spiritual life there was circled and eddied around 
its door; while its walls, pointing to Jerusalem, kept 
the scattered populations in touch with the Temple, 
that marbled dream of Hebraism ; but in saying this 
we say nearly all. The tides of worldliness and 
formality, which, sweeping through the Temple gates, 
had left a scum of mire even upon the sacred courts, 
chilling devotion and almost extinguishing faith, had 
swept over the threshold of the synagogue. There the 


scribes had usurped Moses 7 seat, exalting Tradition 
as a sort of essence of Scripture, and deadening the 
majestic voices of the law in the jargon of their vain 
repetitions. But Jesus does not absent Himself from 
the service of the synagogue because the fires upon its 
altars are dulled and quenched by the down-draught of 
the times. To Him it is the house of God, and if 
others see it not, He sees a ladder of light, with as- 
cending and descending angels. If others hear but the 
voices of man, all broken and confused, He hears the 
Diviner voice, still and small; He hears the music 
of the heavenly host, throwing down their Glorias upon 
earth. The pure in heart can find and see God any- 
where. He who worships truly carries his Holy of 
holies within him. He who takes his own fire need 
never complain of the cold, and with wood and fire all 
prepared, he can find or he can build an altar upon 
any mount. Happy is the soul that has learned to 
lean upon God, who can say, amid all the distractions 
and interventions of man, " My soul, wait thou only 
upon God." To such a one, whose soul is athirst for 
God, the Valley of Baca becomes a well, while the hot 
rock pours out its streams of blessing. The art of 
worship avails nothing if the heart of worship is gone ; 
but if that remain, subtle attractions will ever draw it 
to the place where " His name is recorded, and where 
His honour dwelleth." 

In his earlier chapters St. Luke is careful to light 
his Sabbath lamp, telling that such and such miracles 
were wrought on that day, because the Sabbath ques- 
tion was one on which Jesus soon came into collision 
with the Pharisees. By their traditions, and the withs 
of dry and sharp legalities, they had strangled the 
Sabbath, until life was well-nigh extinct. They had 


made rigorous and exacting what God had made 
bright and restful, fencing it around with negations, 
and burdening it with penalties. Jesus broke the withs 
that bound her, let the freer air play upon her face, 
and then led her back to the sweet liberties of her 
earlier years. How He does it the sequel will show. 

The Sabbath morning finds Jesus repairing to the 
synagogue at Capernaum, a sanctuary built by a 
Gentile centurion, arid presided over by Jairus, both of 
whom are yet to be brought into close personal rela- 
tionship with Christ. From the silence of the narrative 
we should infer that the courtesy offered at Nazareth 
was not repeated at Capernaum that of being invited 
to read the lesson from the Book of the Prophets. But 
whether so or not, He was allowed to address the con- 
gregation, a privilege which was often accorded to any 
eminent stranger who might be present. Of the subject 
of the discourse we know nothing. Possibly it was 
suggested by some passing scene or incident, as the 
sculptured pot of manna, in this same synagogue, called 
forth the remarkable address about the earthly and the 
heavenly bread (John vi. 31). But if the substance of 
the discourse is lost to us, its effect is not. It awoke 
the same feeling of surprise at Capernaum as it had 
done before among the more rustic minds of Nazareth. 
There, however, it was the graciousness of His words, 
their mingled " sweetness and light," which so caused 
them to wonder ; here at Capernaum it was the "au- 
thority" with which He spoke that so astonished them, 
so different from the speech of the scribes, which, for the 
most part, was but an iteration of quibbles and triviali- 
ties, with just as much of originality as the " old clo' " 
cries of our modem streets." The speech of Jesus came 
as a breath from the upper air; it was the intense 


language of One who possessed the truth, and who 
was Himself possessed by the truth. He dealt in 
principles, not platitudes ; in eternal facts, and not in the 
fancies of gossamer that tradition so delighted to spin. 
Others might speak with the hesitancy of doubt ; Jesus 
spoke in " verilys " and verities, the very essences of 
truth. And so His word fell upon the ears of men with 
the tones of an oracle ; they felt themselves addressed 
by the unseen Deity who was behind ; they had not 
learned, as we have, that the Deity of their oracle was 
within. No wonder that they are astonished at His 
authority an authority so perfectly free from any 
assumptions ; they will wonder still more when they 
find that demons, too, recognize this authority, and 
obey it. 

While Jesus was still speaking the tense of the 
verb implies an unfinished discourse suddenly He was 
interrupted by a loud, wild shout : " Ah, what have we 
to do with Thee, Thou Jesus of Nazareth ? Art Thou 
come to destroy us ? I know Thee, who Thou art, the 
Holy One of God." It was the cry of a man who, as 
our Evangelist expresses it, " had a spirit of an unclean 
devil." The phrase is a singular one, in fact unique, 
and savours a little of tautology ; for St. Luke uses 
the words "spirit" and "devil" as synonyms (ix. 39). 
Later in his Gospel he would simply have said "he 
had an unclean devil ; " why, then, does he here amplify 
the phrase, and say he had "a spirit of an unclean 
devil " ? We can, of course, only conjecture, but might 
it not be because to the Gentile mind to which he is 
writing the powers of evil were represented as per- 
sonifications, having a corporeal existence ? And so 
in his first reference to demoniacal possession he pauses 
to explain that these demons are evil " spirits/' with 


existences altogether separate from the diseased hu- 
manity which temporarily they were allowed to inhabit 
and to rule. Neither can we determine with certainty 
the meaning of the phrase " an unclean devil/' though 
probably it was so called because it drove its victim to 
haunt unclean places, like the Gadarene, who had his 
dwelling among the tombs. 

The whole subject of demonology has been called in 
question by certain modern critics. They aver that it 
is simply an after-growth of Paganism, the seeds of 
worn-out mythologies which had been blown over into 
the Christian mind ; and eliminating from them all that 
is supernatural, they reduce the so-called "posses- 
sions " to the natural effects of purely natural causes, 
physical and mental. It is confessedly a subject diffi- 
cult as it is mysterious; but we are not inclined, at 
the bidding of rationalistic clamour, so to strike out 
the supernatural. Indeed, we cannot, without impaling 
ourselves upon this dilemma, that Jesus, knowingly or 
unknowingly, taught as the truth what was not true. 
That Jesus lent the weight of His testimony to the 
popular belief is evident ; never once, in all His allu- 
sions, does He call it in question, nor hint that He is 
speaking now only in an accommodated sense, borrowing 
the accents of current speech. To Him the existence 
and presence of evil spirits was just as patent and as 
solemn a fact as was the existence of the arch-spirit, 
even Satan himself. And granting the existence of 
evil spirits, who will show us the line of limitation, the 
" Hitherto, but no farther/* where their influence is 
stayed? Have we not seen, in mesmerism, cases of 
real possession, where the weaker human will has been 
completely overpowered by the stronger will ? when 
the subject was no longer himself, but his thoughts, 


words, and acts were those of another ? And are there 
not, in the experiences of all medical men, and of 
ministers of religion, cases of depravity so utterly foul 
and loathsome that they cannot be explained except 
by the Jewish taunt, " He hath a devil " ? According 
to the teaching of Scripture, the evil spirit possessed 
the man in the entirety of his being, commanding his 
own spirit, ruling both body and mind. Now it touched 
the tongue with a certain glibness of speech, becoming 
a " spirit of divination," and now it touched it with 
dumbness, putting upon the life the spell of an awful 
silence. Not that the obscurity of the eclipse was 
always the same. There were more lucid moments, 
the penumbras of brightness, when, for a brief interval, 
the consciousness seemed to awake, and the human 
will seemed struggling to assert itself; as is seen in the 
occasional dualism of its speech, when the " I " emerges 
from the " we," only, however, to be drawn back again, 
to have its identity swallowed up as before. 

Such is the character who, leaving the graves of the 
dead for the abodes of the living, now breaks through 
the ceremonial ban, and enters the synagogue. Rush- 
ing wildly within for we can scarcely suppose him 
to be a quiet worshipper ; the rules of the synagogue 
would not have allowed that and approaching Jesus, 
he abruptly breaks in upon the discourse of Jesus with 
his cry of mingled fear and passion. Of the cry itself 
we need not speak, except to notice its question and 
its confession. " Art Thou come to destroy us ? " he 
asks, as if, somehow, the secret of the Redeemer's 
mission had been told to these powers of darkness. 
Did they know that He had come to " destroy " the 
works of the devil, and ultimately to destroy, with an 
everlasting destruction, him who had the power of 


death, that is, the devil ? Possibly they did, for, citizens 
of two worlds, the visible and the invisible, should not 
their horizon be wider than our own ? At any rate, 
their knowledge, in some points, was in advance of the 
nascent faith of the disciples. They knew and con- 
fessed the Divinity of Christ's mission, and the Divinity 
of His Person, crying, I know Thee, who Thou art, 
the Holy One of God ; " " Thou art the Son of God " 
(iv. 41), when as yet the faith of the disciples was only 
a nebula of mist, made up in part of unreal hopes and 
random guesses. Indeed, we seldom find the demons 
yielding to the power of Christ, or to the delegated 
power of His disciples, but they make their confession 
of superior knowledge as if they possessed a more 
intimate acquaintance with Christ. "Jesus I know, 
and Paul I know," said the demon, which the sons of 
Sceva could not exorcise (Acts xix. 15), while now the 
demon of Capernaum boasts, " I know Thee, who Thou 
art, the Holy One of God.*' Nor was it a vain boast 
either, for our Evangelist asserts that Jesus did not 
suffer the demons to speak, " because they knew that 
He was the Christ" (ver. 41). They knew Jesus, but 
they feared and hated Him. In a certain sense they 
believed, but their belief only caused them to tremble, 
while it left them demons still. Just so is it now : 

"There are, too, who believe in. hell and lie; 
There are who waste their souls in working out 
Life's problem, on these sands betwixt two tides, 
And end, 'Now give us the beasts' part, in death/ w 

Saving faith . is thus more than a bare assent of the 
mind, more than some cold belief, or vain repetition 
of a creed. A creed may be complete and beautiful, 
but it is not the Christ; it is only the vesture the 
Christ wears ; and alas, there are many still who will 


chaffer about, and cast lots for, a creed, who will go 
directly and crucify the Christ Himself! The faith 
that saves, besides the assent of the mind, must have 
the consent of the will and the surrender of the life. 
It is "with the heart," and not only with the mind, 
man " believeth unto righteousness." 

The interruption brought the discourse of Jesus to 
an abrupt end, but it served to point the discourse 
with further exclamations of surprise, while it offered 
space for a new manifestation of Divine authority and 
power, It did not in the least disconcert the Master, 
though it had doubtless sent a thrill of excitement 
through the whole congregation. He did not even rise 
from His seat (ver. 38), but retaining the teaching pos- 
ture, and not deigning a reply to the questions of the 
demon, He rebuked the evil spirit, saying, " Hold thy 
peace, and come out of him/* thus recognizing the dual 
will, and distinguishing between the possessor and the 
possessed. The command was obeyed instantly and 
utterly ; though, as if to make one last supreme effort, 
he throws his victim down upon the floor of the syna- 
gogue, like Samson Agonistes, pulling to the ground 
the temple of his imprisonment. It was, however, a 
vain attempt, for he did him "no hurt." The roaring 
lion had indeed been " muzzled " which is the primi- 
tive meaning of the verb rendered " Hold thy peace" 
by the omnipotent word of Jesus. 

They were il astonished at His teaching " before, but 
how much more so now ! Then it was a convincing 
word ; now it is a commanding word. They hear the 
voice of Jesus, sweeping like suppressed thunder over 
the boundaries of the invisible world, and commanding 
even devils, driving them forth, just with one rebuke, 
from the temple of the human soul, as afterwards He 


drove the traders from His Father's house with His 
whip of small cords. No wonder that "amazement 
came upon all," or that they asked, "What is this 
word ? for with authority and power He commandeth 
the unclean spirits, and they come out." 

And so Jesus began His miracles of healing at the 
outmost marge of human misery. With the finger of 
His love, with the touch of His omnipotence, He swept 
the uttermost circle of our human need, writing on 
that far and low horizon His wonderful name, " Mighty 
to Save." And since none are outcasts from His mercy 
save those who outcast themselves, why should we 
limit " the Holy One of Israel " ? why should we 
despair of any ? Life and hope should be coeval. 

Immediately on retiring from the synagogue, Jesus 
passes out of Capernaum, and along the shore to Beth- 
saida, and enters, together with James and John, the 
house of Peter and Andrew (John i. 44). It is a 
singular coincidence that the Apostle Peter, with whose 
name the Romish Church takes such liberties, and 
who is himself the " Rock " on which they rear their 
huge fabric of priestly assumptions, should be the only 
Apostle of whose married life we read ; for though John 
afterwarcls possesses a " home7 f *iis"only inmate besides, 
as far as the records show, is the new " mother " he 
leads away from the cross. It is true we have not the 
name of Peter's wife, but we find her shadow, as well 
as that of her husband, thrown across the pages of the 
New Testament; cleaving to her mother even while 
she follows another; ministering to Jesus, and for a 
time finding Him a home; while later we see her 
sharing the privations and the perils of her husband's 
wandering life (i Cor, ix. 5). Verily, Rome has drifted 
far from the " Rock " of her anchorage, the example of 


her patron saint; and between the Vatican of the 
modern Pontiff and the sweet domesticities of Beth- 
saida is a gulf of divergence which only a powerful 
imagination can cross. 

No sooner, however, has Jesus entered the house 
than He is told how Peter's mother-in-law has been 
suddenly stricken down by a violent fever, probably a 
local fever for which that lake-shore was notorious, and 
which was bred from the malaria of the marsh. Our 
physician-Evangelist does not stay to diagnose the 
malady, but he speaks of it as i( a great fever," thus 
giving us an idea of its virulence and consequent 
danger. " And they besought Him for her;" not that 
He was at all reluctant to grant their request, for the 
tense of the verb implies that once asking was suffi- 
cient ; but evidently there was the " beseeching " look 
and tone of a mingled love and fear. Jesus responds 
instantly ; for can He come fresh from the healing of 
a stranger, to allow a dread shadow to darken the 
home and the hearts of His own ? Seeking the sick 
chamber, He bends over the fever-stricken one, and 
taking her hand in His (Mark i. 31), He speaks some 
word of command, " rebuking the fever," as St. Luke 
expresses it. In a moment the fatal fire is quenched, 
the throbbing heart regains its normal beat, a delicious 
coolness takes the place of the burning heat, while 
the fever-flush steals away to make place for the bloom 
of health. The cure was perfect and instant. The 
lost strength returned, and " immediately she arose 
and ministered unto them," preparing, doubtless, the 
evening meal. 

May we not throw the light of this narrative upon 
one of the questions of the day ? Men speak of the 
reign of law, and the drift of modern scientific thought 


is against any interference even Divine with the 
ordinary operations of physical law. As the visible 
universe is opened up and explored the heavens are 
crowded back and back, until they seem nothing but 
a golden mist, some distant dream. Nature's laws are 
seen to be so uniform, so ruthlessly exact, that certain 
of those who should be teachers of a higher faith are 
suggesting the impossibility of any interference with 
their ordinary operations. "You do but waste your 
breath/* they say, {t in asking for any immunities from 
Nature's penalties, or for any deviation from her fixed 
rules. They are invariable, inviolate. Be content 
rather to be conformed, mentally and morally, to God's 
will." But is prayer to have so restricted an area? 
is the physical world to be buried so deep in " law " 
that it shall give no rest to prayer, not even for the 
sole of her foot ? Entire conformity to God's will is, 
indeed, the highest aim and privilege of life, and he 
who prays the most seeks most for this ; but has God 
no will in the world of physics, in the realm of matter ? 
Shall we push Him back to the narrow ledge of a 
primal Genesis? or shall we leave Him chained to 
that frontier coast, another Prometheus bound ? It is 
well to respect and to honour law, but Nature's laws 
are complex, manifold. They can form combinations 
numberless, working different or opposite results. He 
who searches for " the springs of life " will 

" Reach the law within the law ; " 

and who can tell whether there is not a law^of prayer 
and faith, thrown by the Unseen Hand across all the 
warp of created things, binding ''the whole round 
earth " about "the feet of God"? Reason says, " It 
might be so," and Scripture says, "It is so/' Was 


Jesus angry when they told Him of the fever-stricken, 
and they implored His intervention ? Did He say, 
"You mistake My mission. I must not interfere with 
the course of the fever; it must have its range. If 
she lives, she lives; and if she dies, she dies; and 
whether the one or the other, you must be patient, 
you must be content " ? But such were not the words 
of Jesus, with their latent fatalism. He heard the 
prayer, and at once granted it, not by annulling 
Nature's laws, nor even suspending them, but by intro- 
ducing a higher law. Even though the fever was the 
result of natural causes, and though it probably might; 
have been prevented, had they but drained the marsh 
or planted it with the eucalyptus, yet this does not 
shut out all interventions of Divine mercy. The Divine 
compassion makes some allowance for our human 
ignorance, when it is not wilful, and for our human 

The fever "left her, and immediately she rose up 
and ministered unto them." Yes, and there are fevers 
of the spirit as well as of the flesh, when the heart 
is quick and flurried, the brain hot with anxious 
thought, when the fret and jar of life seem eating our 
strength away, and our disquiet spirit finds its rest 
broken by the pressure of some fearful nightmare. And 
how soon does this soul-fever strike us down ! how 
it unfits us for our ministry of blessing, robbing us of 
the "heart at leisure from itself," and filling the soul 
with sad, distressing fears, until our life seems like 
the helpless, withered leaf, whirled and tossed hither 
and thither by the wind ! For the fever of the body 
there may not always be relief, but for the fever of 
the spirit there is a possible and a perfect cure. It is 
the touch of Jesus. A close personal contact with the 


living and loving Christ will rebuke the fever of your 
heart ; it will give to your soul a quietness and rest- 
fulness that are Divine ; and with the touch of His 
omnipotence upon you, and with all the elation of con- 
scious strength, you too will arise into a nobler life, 
a life which will find its supremest joy in ministering 
unto others, and so ministering unto Him. 

Such was the Sabbath in Galilee in which Jesus 
began His miracles of healing. But if it saw the 
beginning of His miracles, it did not see their end ; 
for soon as the sun had set, and the Sabbath restraint 
was over, "all that had any sick with divers diseases 
brought them unto Him, and He laid His hands on 
every one of them, and healed them/' A marvellous 
ending of a marvellous day ! Jesus throws out by 
handfuls His largesse of blessing, health, which is the 
highest wealth, showing that there is no end to His 
power, as there is no limit to His love ; that His will 
is supreme over all forces and all laws; that He is, 
and ever will be, the perfect Saviour, binding up the 
broken in heart, assuaging all griefs, and healing all 
wounds ! 


w : 



" HEN Peter and his companions had the interview 
with Jesus by the Jordan, and were summoned 
to follow Him, it was the designation, rather than the 
appointment, to the Apostleship. They did accompany 
Him to Cana, and thence to Capernaum ; but here their 
paths diverged for a time, Jesus passing on alone to 
Nazareth, while the novitiate disciples fall back again 
into the routine of secular life, Now, however, His 
mission is fairly inaugurated, and He must attach them 
permanently to His person. He must lay His hand, 
where His thoughts have long been, upon the future, 
making provision for the stability and permanence of 
His work, that so the kingdom may survive and 
flourish when the Ascension clouds have made the 
King Himself invisible. 

St. Matthew and St. Mark insert their abridged 
narrative of the call before the healing of the demoniac 
and the cure of Peter's mother-in-law ; and most expo- 
sitors think that St< Luke's setting " in order," in this 
cas<* at least, is wrong ; that he has preferred to have a 
chronological inaccuracy, so that His miracles may be 
gathered into related groups. But that our Evangelist 
is in error is by no means certain ; indeed, we are 
inclined to think that the balance of probability is on 
the side of his arrangement. How else shall we account 


for the crowds who now press upon Jesus so importu- 
nately and with such Galilean ardour ? It was not the 
rumour of His Judaean miracles which had awoke this 
tempest of excitement, for the journey to Jerusalem was 
not yet taken. And what else could it be, if the miracu- 
lous draught of fishes was the first of the Capernaum 
miracles? But suppose that we retain the order of 
St. Luke, that the call followed closely upon that 
memorable Sabbath, then the crowds fall into the story 
naturally ; it is the multitude which had gathered about 
the door when the Sabbath sun had set, putting an 
after-glow upon the hills, and on whose sick He 
wrought His miracles of healing. Nor does the fact 
that Jesus went to be a guest in Peter's house require 
us to invert the order of St Luke; for the casual 
acquaintance by the Jordan had since ripened into 
intimacy, so that Peter would naturally offer hospitality 
to his Master on His coming to Capernaum. Again, too, 
going back to the Sabbath in the synagogue, we read 
how they were astonished at His doctrine ; " for His 
word was with authority ; " and when that astonishment 
was heightened into amazement, as they saw the demon 
cowed and silenced, this was their exclamation, " What 
a word is this ! " And does not Peter refer to this, when 
the same voice that commanded the demon now com- 
mands them to " Let down the nets," and he answers, 
" At Thy word I will " ? It certainly seems as if the 
"word" of the sea-shore were an echo from the 
synagogue, and so a " word " that justifies the order of 
our Evangelist. 

It was probably still early in the morning for the 
days of Jesus began back at the dawn, and very often 
before when He sought the quiet of the sea-shore, 
possibly to find a still hour for devotion, or perhaps to 


see how His friends had fared with their all-night 
fishing. Little quiet, however, could He find, for from 
Capernaum and Bethsaida comes a hurrying and intru- 
sive crowd, surging around Him with the swirl and 
roar of confused voices, and pressing inconveniently 
near. Not that the crowd was hostile ; it was a friendly 
but inquisitive multitude, eager, not so much to see a 
repetition of His miracles, as to hear Him speak, in 
those rare, sweet accents, "the word of God." The 
expression characterizes the whole teaching of Jesus. 
Though His words were meant for earth, for human 
ears and for human hearts, there was no earthliness 
about them. On the topics in which man is most 
exercised and garrulous, such as local or national 
events, Jesus is strangely silent He scarcely gives 
them a passing thought ; for what were the events of 
the day to Him who was " before Abraham," and who 
saw the two eternities ? what to Him was the gossip 
of the hour, how Rome's armies marched and fought, or 
how " the dogs of faction " bayed ? To His mind these 
were but as dust caught in the eddies of the wind. The 
thoughts of Jesus were high. Like the figures of the 
prophet's vision, they had feet indeed, so that they 
could alight and rest awhile on earthly things though 
even here they only touched earth at points which 
were common to humanity, and they were winged, too, 
having the sweep of the lower spaces and of the highest 
heavens. And so there was a heavenliness upon the 
words of Jesus, and a sweetness, as if celestial har- 
monies were imprisoned within them. They set men 
looking upwards, and listening ; for the heavens seemed 
nearer as He spoke, and they were no longer dumb. 
Andnot only did the words of Jesus bring to men a clearer 
revelation of God, correcting the hard views which man, 


in his fears and his sins, had formed of Him, but men 
felt the Divineness of His speech ; that Jesus was the 
Bearer of a new evangel, God's latest message of hope 
and love. And He was the Bearer of such a message ; 
He was Himself that Evangel, the Word of God 
incarnate, that men might hear of heavenly things in 
the common accents of earthly speech. 

Nor was Jesus loth to deliver His message ; He 
needed no constraining to speak of the things pertaining 
to the kingdom of God. Only let Him see the listening 
heart, the void of a sincere longing, and His speech 
distilled as the dew. And so no time was to Him 
inopportune; the break of day, the noon, the night 
were all alike to Him. No place was out of harmony 
with His message the Temple-court, the synagogue, 
the domestic hearth, the mountain, the lake-shore ; He 
consecrated all alike with the music of His speech. 
Nay, even upon the cross, amid its agonies, He opens 
His lips once more, though parched with terrible thirst, 
to speak peace within a penitent soul, and to open for it 
the gate of Paradise. 

Drawn up on the shore, close by the water's edge, 
are two boats, empty now, for Simon and his partners 
are busy washing their nets, after their night of fruitless 
toil. Seeking for freer space than the pushing crowd 
will allow Him, and also wanting a point of vantage, 
where His voice will command a wider range of 
listeners, Jesus gets into Simon's boat, and requests 
him to put out a little from the land. " And He sat 
down, and taught the multitudes out of the boat/' 
assuming the posture of the teacher, even though the 
occasion partook so largely of the impromptu character. 
When He dispensed the material bread He made the 
multitudes " sit down ; " but when He dispensed the 


living bread, the heavenly manna, He left the multitudes 
standing, while He Himself sat down, so claiming the 
authority of a Master, as His posture emphasized His 
words. It is somewhat singular that when our Evan- 
gelist has been so -careful and minute in his description 
of the scene, giving us a sort of photograph of that lake- 
side group, with bits of artistic colouring thrown in, 
that then he should omit entirely the subject-matter of 
the discourse. But so he does, and we try in vain to 
fill up the blank. Did He, as at Nazareth, turn the 
lamps of prophecy full upon Himself, and tell them 
how the " great Light " had at last risen upon Galilee 
of the nations ? or did He let His speech reflect the 
shimmer of the lake, as He told in parable how the 
kingdom of heaven was u like unto a net that was cast 
into the sea, and gathered of every kind " ? Possibly 
He did, but His words, whatever they were, " like the 
pipes of Pan, died with the ears and hearts of those 
who heard them." 

u When He had left speaking," having dismissed the 
multitude with His benediction, He turns to give to His 
future disciples, Peter and Andrew, a private lesson. 
" Put out into the deep/' He said, including Andrew 
now in His plural imperative, "and let down your nets 
for a draught." It was a commanding voice, altogether 
different in its tone from the last words He addressed 
to Peter, when He "requested" him to put out a little 
from the land. Then He spoke as the Friend, possibly 
the Guest, with a certain amount of deference ; now He 
steps up to a very throne of power, a throne which in 
Peter's life He never more abdicates. Simon recognizes 
the altered conditions, that a Higher Will is now in the 
boat, where hitherto his . own will has been supreme ; 
and saluting Him as " Master," he says, " We toiled all 


night, and took nothing ; but at Thy word I will let 
down the nets." He does not demur; he does not 
hesitate one moment. Though himself weary with his 
night-long labours, and though the command of the 
Master went directly against his nautical experiences, 
he sinks his thoughts and his doubts in the word of 
his Lord. It is true he speaks of the failure of the 
night, how they have taken nothing; but instead of 
making that a plea for hesitancy and doubt, it is the 
foil to make his unquestioning faith stand out in bolder 
relief. Peter was the man of impulse, the man of 
action, with a swift-beating heart and an ever-ready 
hand. To his forward-stepping mind decision was 
easy and immediate ; and so, almost before the com- 
mand was completed, his swift lips had made answer, 
" I will let down the nets." It was the language of a 
prompt and full obedience. It showed that Simon's 
nature was responsive and genuine, that when a 
Christly word struck upon his soul it set his whole 
being vibrating, and drove out all meaner thoughts. 
He had learned to obey, which was the first lesson of 
discipleship ; and having learned to obey, he was there- 
fore fit to rule, qualified for leadership, and worthy of 
being entrusted with the keys of the kingdom. 

And how much is missed in life through feebleness 
of resolve, a lack of decision*! How many are the 
invertebrate souls, lacking in will and void of purpose, 
who, instead of piercing waves and conquering the 
flow of adverse tides, like the medusae, can only drift, 
all limp and languid, in the current of circumstance ! 
Such men do not make apostles ; they are but ciphers 
of flesh and blood, of no value by themselves, and only 
of any worth as they are attached to the unit of some 
stronger will. A poor broken thing is a life spent 


in the subjunctive mood, among the u mights" and 

"shoulds," where the " I will" waits upon " I would " ! 
That is the truest, worthiest life that is divided be- 
tween the indicative and the imperative. As in shak- 
ing pebbles the smaller ones drop down to the bottom, 
their place determined by their size, so in the shaking 
together of human lives, in the rub and jostle of the 
world, the strong wills invariably come to the top. 

And how much do even Christians lose, through 
their partial or their slow obedience ! How we hesitate 
and question, when our duty is simply to obey ! How 
we cling to our own ways, modes, and wills, when the 
Christ is commanding us forward to some higher 
service ! How strangely we forget that in the grammar 
of life the "Thou wiliest" should be the first person, 
and the " I will " a far-off second ! When the soldier 
hears the word of command he becomes deaf to all 
other voices, even the voice of danger, or the voice of 
death itself; and when Christ speaks to us His word 
should completely fill the soul, leaving no room for 
hesitancy, no place for doubt. Said the mother to the 
servants of Cana, " Whatsoever He saith unto you, do 
it." That " whatsoever " is the line of duty, and the 
line of beauty too. He who makes Christ's will his 
will, who does implicitly "whatsoever He saith," will 
find a Cana anywhere, where life's water turns to 
wine, and where life's common things are exalted into 
sacraments. He who walks up to the light will surely 
walk in the light. 

We can imagine with what alacrity Simon obeys 
the Master's word, and how the disappointment of the 
night and all sense of fatigue are lost in the exhilaration 
of the new hopes. Seconded by the more quiet Andrew, 
who catches the enthusiasm of his brother's faith, he 


pulls out into deep water, where they let down the 
nets. Immediately they enclosed " a great multitude " 
of fishes, a weight altogether beyond their power to 
lift ; and as they saw the nets beginning to give way 
with the strain, Peter "beckoned" to his partners, 
James and John, whose boat, probably, was still drawn 
up on the shore. Coming to their assistance, together 
they secured the spoil, completely filling the two boats, 
until they were in danger of sinking with the over- 

Here, then, we find a miracle of a new order. Hitherto, 
in the narrative of our Evangelist, Jesus has shown His 
supernatural power only in connection with humanity, 
driving away the ills and diseases which preyed upon 
the human body and the human soul. And not even 
here did Jesus make use of that power randomly, 
making it common and cheap ; it was called forth by 
the constraint of a great need and a great desire. 
Now, however, there is neither the desire nor the need. 
It was not the first time, nor was it to be the last, that 
Peter and Andrew had spent a night in fruitless toil. 
That was a lesson they had early to learn, and which 
they were never allowed long to forget. They had 
been quite content to leave their boat, as indeed they 
had intended, on the sands, until the evening should 
recall them to their task. But Jesus volunteers His 
help, and works a miracle whether of omnipotence, or 
omniscience, or of both, it matters not, and not either 
to relieve some present distress, or to still some pain, 
but that He might fill the empty boats with fishes. 
We must not, however, assess the value of the miracle 
at the market-price of the take, for evidently Jesus 
had some ulterior motive and design. As the leaden 
types, lying detached and meaningless in the " case/ 7 can 


be arranged into words and be made to voice the very 
highest thought, so these boats and oars, nets and fish 
are but so many characters, the Divine " code " as we 
may call it, spelling out, first to these fishermen, and 
then to mankind in general, the deep thought and 
purpose ,of Christ. Can we discover that meaning? 
We think we may. 

In the first place, the miracle shows us the supremacy 
of Christ. We may almost read the Divineness of 
Christ's mission in the manner of its manifestation. 
HadTJesus been man only, His thoughts running on 
human lines, and His plans built after human models, 
He would have arranged for another Epiphany at the 
beginning of His ministry, showing His credentials at 
the first, and announcing in full the purpose of His 
mission. That would have been the way of man, fond 
as he is of surprises and sudden transitions ; but such 
is not the way of God. The forces of heaven do not 
move forward in leaps and somersaults ; their ad- 
vances are gradual and rhythmic. Evolution, and not 
revolution, is the Divine law, in the realm of matter 
and of mind alike. The dawn must precede the day. 
And just so the life of the Divine Son is manifested. 
He who is the " Light of the world " comes into that 
world softly as a sunrise, lighting up little by little 
the horizon of His disciples' thought, lest a revelation 
which was too full and too sudden should only dazzle 
and blind them. So far they have seen Him exercise 
His power over diseases and demons, or, as at Cana, 
over inorganic matter ; now they see that power moving 
out in new directions. Jesus sets * up His throne to 
face the sea, the sea with which they were so familiar, 
and over which they claimed some sort of lordship. 
But even here, upon their own element, Jesus is su- 


preme.. He sees what they do not ; He knows these 
deeps, filling up with His omniscience the blanks they 
seek to fill with their random guesses. Here, hitherto, 
their wills have been all-powerful ; they could take 
their boats and cast their nets just when and where 
they would ; but now they feel the touch of a Higher 
Will, and Christ's word fills their hearts, impelling them 
onward, even as their boats were driven of the wind. 
Jesus now assumes the command. His Will, like a 
magnet, attracts to itself and controls their lesser wills ; 
and as His word now launches out the boat and casts 
the nets, so shortly, at that same " word," will boats 
and nets, and the sea itself, be left behind. 

And did not that Divine Will move beneath the 
water as well as above it, controlling the movements 
of the shoal of fishes, as on the surface it was con- 
trolling the thoughts and moving the hands of the 
fishermen ? It is true that in Gennesaret, as in our 
modern seas, the fish sometimes moved in such dense 
shoals that an enormous "take" would be an event 
purely natural, a wonder indeed, but no miracle. 
Possibly it was so here, in which case the narrative 
would resolve itself into a miracle of omniscience, as 
Jesus saw, what even the trained eyes of the fishermen 
had not seen, the movements of the shoal, then regulating 
His commands, so making the oars above and the fins 
below strike the water in unison. But was this all ? 
Evidently not, to Peter's mind, at any rate. Had it 
been all to him, a purely natural phenomenon, or had 
he seen in it only the prescience of Christ, a vision 
somewhat clearer and farther than his own, it would 
not have created such feelings of surprise and awe. 
He might still have wondered, but he scarcely would 
have wojTshipped. But Peter feels himself in the pre- 


sence of a Power that knows no limit, One who has 
supreme authority over diseases and demons, and who 
now commands even the fishes of the sea. In this 
sudden wealth of spoil he reads the majesty and glory 
of the new-found Christ, whose word, spoken or 
unspoken, is omnipotent, alike in the heights above 
and in the depths beneath. And so the moment his 
thoughts are disengaged from the pressing task he 
prostrates himself at the feet of Jesus, crying with 
awe-stricken speech, " Depart from me ; for I am a 
sinful man, O Lord ! " We are not, perhaps, to inter- 
pret this literally, for Peter's lips were apt to become 
tremulous with the excitement of the moment, and to 
say words which in a cooler mood he would recall, or 
at least modify. So here, it surely was not his mean- 
ing that " the Lord," as lie now calls Jesus, should 
leave him ; for how indeed should He depart, now that 
they are afloat upon the deep, far from land ? But 
such had been the revelation of the power and holiness 
of Jesus, borne in by the miracle upon Peter's soul, 
that he felt himself thrown back, morally and in every 
way, to an infinite distance from Christ. His boat was 
unworthy to carry, as the house of the centurion was 
unworthy to receive, such infinite perfections as now he 
saw in Jesus. It was an apocalypse indeed, revealing, 
together with the purity and power of Christ, the 
littleness, the nothingness of his sinful self; that, as 
Elijah covered his face when the LORD passed by, so 
Peter feels as if he ought to draw the veil of an infinite 
distance around himself the distance which would 
ever be between him and the LORD, were not His 
mercy and His love just as infinite as His power. 

The fuller meaning of the miracle, however, becomes 
apparent when we interpret it in the light of the call 


which immediately followed. Reading the sudden fear 
which has come over Peter's soul, and which has 
thrown his speech somewhat into confusion, Jesus first 
stills the agitation of his heart by a word of assur- 
ance and of cheer. " Fear not/' He says, for " from 
henceforth thou shalt catch men." It will be observed 
that St. Luke puts the commission of Christ in the 
singular number, as addressed to Peter alone, while 
St. Matthew and St. Mark put it in the plural, as in- 
cluding Andrew as well : " I will make you to become 
fishers of men." The difference, however, is but im- 
material, and possibly the reason why St. Luke intro- 
duces the Apostle Peter with such a frequent nomina- 
tion for "Simon" is a familiar name in these early 
chapters making his call so emphatic and prominent, 
was because in the partisan times which came but too 
early in the Church the Gentile Christians, for whom 
our Evangelist is writing, might think unworthily and 
speak disparagingly of him who was the Apostle of 
the Circumcision. Be this as it may, Simon and 
Andrew are now summoned to, and commissioned for, 
a higher service. That li henceforth " strikes across 
their life like a high watershed, severing the old from 
the new, their future from their past, and throwing all 
the currents of their thoughts and plans into different 
and opposite directions. They are to be "fishers of 
. men," and Jesus, who so delights in giving object- 
lessons to His disciples, uses the miracle as a sort of 
background, on which He may write their commission 
in large and lasting characters; it is the Divine seal 
upon their credentials. 

Not that they understood the full purport of His 
words at once. The phrase " fishers of men " was one 
of those seed-thoughts which needed pondering in the 


heart ; it would gradually unfold itself in the after- 
months of discipleship, ripening at last in the summer 
heat and summer light of the Pentecost. They were 
now to be fishers of the higher art, their quest the souls 
of men. This must now be the one object, the supreme 
aim of their life, a life now ennobled by a higher call. 
Plans, journeys, thoughts, and words, all must bear the 
stamp of their great commission, which is to " catch 
men," not unto death, however, as the fish expire when 
taken from their native element, but unto life for such 
is the meaning of the word. And to " take them alive " 
is to save them ; it is to take them out of an element 
which stifles and destroys, and to draw them, by the 
constraints of truth and love, within the kingdom of 
heaven, which kingdom is righteousness and life, even 
eternal life. 

But if the full meaning of the Master's words grows 
upon them an aftermath to be harvested in later 
months enough is understood to make the line of 
present duty plain. That " henceforth " is clear, sharp, 
and imperative. It leaves room neither for excuse nor 
postponement. And so immediately, " when they had 
brought their boats to land, they left all and followed 
Him," to learn by following how they too might be 
winners of souls, and in a lesser, lower sense, saviours 
of men. 

The story of St. Luke closes somewhat abruptly, 
with no further reference to Simon's partners ; and 
having "beckoned" them into his central scene, and 
filled their boat, then, as in a dissolving-view, the pen 
of our Evangelist draws around them the haze of 
silence, and they disappear. The other Synoptists, 
however, fill up the blank, telling how Jesus came to 
them, probably later in the day, for they were mending 


the nets, which had been tangled and somewhat torn 
with the weight of spoil they had just taken. Speaking 
no word of explanation, and giving no word of promise, 
He simply says, with that commanding* voice of His, 
" Follow Me," thus putting Himself above all associa- 
tions and all relationships, as Leader and Lord. James 
and John recognize the call, for which doubtless they 
had been prepared, as being for themselves alone, and 
instantly leaving the father, the " hired servants," and 
the half-mended nets, and breaking utterly with their 
past, they follow Jesus, giving to Him, with the excep- 
tion of one dark, hesitating hour, a life-long devotion. 
And forsaking all, the four disciples found all. They 
exchanged a dead self for a living Christ, earth for 
heaven. Following the Lord fully, with no side- 
glances at self or selfish gain at any rate after the 
enduement and the enlightenment of Pentecost they 
found in the presence and friendship of the Lord the 
" hundredfold " in the present life. Allying themselves 
with Christ, they too rose with the rising Sun. Ob- 
scure fishermen, they wrote their names among the 
immortals as the first Apostles of the new faith, bearers 
of the " keys " of the kingdom. Following Christ, 
they led the world ; and as the Light that rose over 
Galilee of the nations becomes ever more intense and 
bright, so it makes ever more intense and vivid the 
shadows of these Galilean fishermen, as it throws them 
across all lands and times. 

And such even now is the truest and noblest life. 
The life which is "hid with Christ" is the life that 
shines the farthest and that tells the most Whether 
in the more quiet paths and scenes of discipleship or 
in the more responsible and public duties of the apos- 
tolate, Jesus demands of us a true, whole-souled, and 


life-long devotion. And, here indeed, the paradox is 
true, for by losing life we find it, even the life more 
abundant; for 

" Men may rise on stepping-stones 
Of their dead selves to higher things." 

Nay, they may attain to the highest things, even to the 
highest heavens. 



WHEN the Greeks called man 6 avOpayrros, or the 
" uplooking one/' they did but crystallize in a 
word what is a universal fact, the religious instinct of 
humanity. Everywhere, and through all times, man 
has felt, as by a sort of intuition, that earth was no 
Ultima Thule, with nothing beyond but oceans of 
vacancy and silence, but that it lay in the over-shadow 
of other worlds, between which and their own were 
subtle modes of correspondence. They felt themselves 
to be in the presence of Powers other and higher than 
human, who somehow influenced their destiny, whose 
favour they must win, and whose displeasure they must 
avert. And so Paganism reared her altars, almost 
numberless, dedicating them even to the " Unknown 
God," lest some anonymous deity should be* grieved at 
being omitted from the enumeration. The prevalence 
of false religions in the world, the garrulous babble of 
mythology, does but voice the religious instinct ,of 
man ; it is but another Tower of Babel, by which men 
hope to find and to scale the heavens which must be 
somewhere overhead. 

In the Old Testament, however, we find the clearer 
revelation. What to the un aided eye of reason and of 
nature seemed but a wave of golden mist athwart the 



sky " a meeting of gentle lights without a name " now 
becomes a wide-reaching and shining realm, peopled 
with intelligences of divers ranks and orders ; while in 
the centre of all is the city and the throne of the Invi- 
sible King, Jehovah, Lord of Sabaoth. In the breath 
of the new morning the gossamer threads Polytheism 
had been spinning through the night were swept away, 
and on the pillars of the New Jerusalem, that celestial 
city of which their own Salem was a far-off and broken 
type, they read the inscription, " Hear, O Israel : the 
Lord our God is one_Lord." But while the Old Testa- 
ment revealed the unity oLlfae Qodliead, it emphasized 
especially His sovereignty, the glories of His holiness, 
and the thunders of His power. He is the great 
Creator, arranging His universe, commanding evolu- 
tions and revolutions, and giving to each molecule of 
matter its secret affinities and repulsions. And again 
He is the Lawgiver, the great Judge, speaking out of 
the cloudy pillar and the windy tempest, dividing the 
firmaments of Right and Wrong, whose holiness hates 
sin with an infinite hatred, and whose justice, with 
sword of flame, pursues the wrong-doer like an unfor- 
getting Nemesis. It is only natural, therefore, that with 
such conceptions of God, the heavens should appear 
distant and somewhat cold. The quiet that was upon 
the world was the hush of awe, of fear, rather than of 
love ; for while the goodness of God was a familiar and 
favourite theme, and while the mercy of God, which 
" endure th for ever," was the refrain, oft repeated, of 
their loftiest songs, the love of God was a height the 
Old Dispensation had not explored, and the Father- 
hood of God, that new world of perpetual summer, lay 
all undiscovered, or but dimly apprehended through the 
snist. The Divine love and the Divine Fatherhood 


were truths which seemed to be held in reserve for the 
New Dispensation ; and as the light needs the subtle 
and sympathetic ether before it can reach our outlying 
world, so the love and the Fatherhood of God are 
borne in upon us by Him who was Himself the Divine 
Son and the incarnation of the Divine love. 

It is just here where the teaching of Jesus concerning 
prayer begins. He does not seek to explain its philo- 
sophy ; He does not give hints as to any observance 
of time or place ; but leaving these questions to adjust 
themselves, He seeks to bring heaven into closer touch 
with earth. And how can He do this so well as by 
revealing the Fatherhood of God ? When the electric 
wire linked the New with the Old World the distances 
were annihilated, the thousand leagues of sea were as 
if they were not ; and when Jesus threw across, between 
earth and heaven, that word " Father/' the wide dis- 
tances vanished, and even the silences became vocal. 
In the Psalms, those loftiest utterances of devotion, 
Religion only once ventured to call God " Father ; " 
and then, as if frightened at her own temerity, she 
lapses into silence, and never speaks the familiar word 
again. But how different the language of the Gospels ! 
It is a name that Jesus is never weary of repeating, 
striking its music upwards of seventy times, as if by 
the frequent iteration He would lodge the heavenly 
word deep within the world's heart This is His first 
lesson in the science of prayer : He drills them on the 
Divine Fatherhood, setting them on that word, as it 
were, to practise the scales ; for as he who has practised 
well the scales has acquired the key to all harmonies, 
so he who has learned well the "Father" has learned 
the secret of heaven, the sesame that opens all its doors 
and unlocks all its treasures. 


"When ye pray," said Jesus, replying to a disciple 
who sought instruction in the heavenly language, " say, 
Father," thus giving us what was His own pass-word 
to the courts of heaven. It is as if He said, " If you 
would pray acceptably put yourself in the right position. 
Seek to realize, and then to claim, your true relationship. 
Do not look upon God as a distant and cold abstraction, 
or as some blind force ; do not regard Him as being 
hostile to you or as careless about you. Else your 
prayer will be some wail of bitterness, a cry coming out 
of the dark, and losing itself in the dark again. But 
look upon God as your Father, your living, loving, hea- 
venly Father; and then step up with a holy boldness into 
the child-place, and all heaven opens before you there." 

And not only does Jesus thus {t show us the Father," 
but He takes pains to show us that it is a real, and not 
some fictitious Fatherhood. He tells us that the word 
means far more in its heavenly than in its earthly use ; 
that the earthly meaning, in fact, is but a shadow of the 
heavenly. For u if ye then," He says, " being evil, 
know how to give good gifts unto your children : how 
much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy 
Spirit to them that ask Him?" He thus sets us a 
problem in Divine proportion. He gives us the human 
fatherhood, with all it implies, as our known quantities, 
and from these He leaves us to work out the unknown 
quantity, which is the Divine ability and willingness 
to give good gifts to men ; for the Holy Spirit includes 
in Himself all spiritual gifts. It is a problem, however, 
which our earthly figures cannot solve. The nearest 
that we can approach to the answer is that the Divine 
Fatherhood is the human fatherhood multiplied by that 
" how much more " a factor which gives us an infinite 


Again, Jesus teaches that character Is an important 
condition of prayer, and that in this realm heart is 
more than any art. Words alone do not constitute 
prayer, for they may be only like the bubbles of the 
children's play, iridescent but hollow, never climbing 
the sky, but returning to the earth whence they came. 
And so when the scribes and Pharisees make "long 
prayers," striking devotional attitudes, and putting on 
airs of sanctity, Jesus could not endure them. They 
were a weariness and abomination to Him ; for He 
read their secret heart, and found it vain and proud. 
In His parable (xviii. n) He puts the genuine and the 
counterfeit prayer side by side, drawing the sharp 
contrast between them. He gives us that of the Pha- 
risee, wordy, inflated, full of the self-eulogizing " I." 
It is the pray ef less prayer, that had no need, and 
which was simply an incense burned before the clayey 
image of himself. Then He gives us the few brief 
words of the publican, the cry of a broken heart, " God 
be merciful to me, a sinner," a prayer which reached 
directly the highest heaven, and which came back 
freighted with the peace of God. " If I regard iniquity 
in my heart," the Psalmist said, "the Lord will not 
hear me." And it is true. If there be the least un- 
forgiven sin within the soul we spread forth our hands, 
we make many prayers, in vain ; we do but utter " wild, 
delirious cries" that Heaven will not hear, or at any 
rate regard. The first cry of true prayer is the cry for 
mercy, pardon ; and until this is spoken, until we step 
tip by faith into the child-position, we do but offer vain 
oblations. Nay, even in the regenerate heart, if there 
be a temporary lapse, and unholy tempers brood within, 
the lips of prayer become paralyzed at once, or they 
only stammer in incoherent speech. We may with 


filled hands compass the altar of God, but neither gifts 
nor prayers can be accepted if there be bitterness and 
jealousy within, or if our "brother has aught against" 
us. The wrong must be righted with our brother, or 
we cannot be right with God. How can we ask for 
forgiveness if we ourselves cannot forgive ? How can 
we ask for raercy if we are hard and merciless, grip- 
ping the throat of each offender, as we demand the 
uttermost farthing ? He who can pray for them who 
despitefully use him is in the way of the Divine com- 
mandment ; he has climbed to the dome of the temple, 
where the whispers of prayer, and even its inarticulate 
aspirations, are heard in heaven. And so the connec- 
tion is most close and constant between praying and 
living, and they pray most and best who at the same 
time u make their life a prayer." 

Again, Jesus maps out for us the realm of prayer, 
showing the wide areas it should cover. St. Luke 
gives us an abbreviated form of the prayer recorded 
by St. Matthew, and which we call the " Lord's Prayer." 
It is a disputed point, though not a material one, 
whether the two prayers are but varied renderings of 
one and the same utterance, or whether Jesus gave, 
on a later occasion, an epitomized form of the prayer 
He had prescribed before, though from the circum- 
stantial evidence of St. Luke we incline to the latter 
view. The two forms, however, are identical in sub- 
stance. It is scarcely likely that Jesus intended It to 
be a rigid formula, to which we should be slavishly 
bound ; for the varied renderings of the two Evangelists 
show plainly that Heaven does not lay stress upon 
the ipsissima verba. We must take it rather as a 
Divine model, laying down the lines on which our 
prayers should move. It is, in fact, a sort of prayer- 


microcosm, giving a miniature reflection of the whole 
world of prayer, as a drop of dew will give a reflection 
of the encircling sky. It gives us what we may call 
the species of prayer, whose genera branch off into 
infinite varieties ; nor can we readily conceive of any 
petition, however particular or private, whose root-stem 
is not found in the few but comprehensive words of 
the Lord's Prayer. It covers every want of man, just 
as it befits every place and time. 

Running through the prayer are two marked divi- 
sions, the one general, the other particular and 
personal ; and in the Divine order, contrary to our 
human wont, the general stands first, and the personal 
second. Our prayers often move in narrow circles, 
like the homing birds coming back to this a centred 
self" of ours, and sometimes we forget to give them 
the wider sweeps over a redeemed humanity. But 
Jesus says, "When ye pray, say, Father, hallowed be 
Thy name. Thy kingdom come." It is a temporary 
erasure of self, as the soul of the worshipper is absorbed 
in God. In its nearness to the throne it forgets for 
awhile its own little needs; its low-flying thoughts 
are caught up into the higher currents of the Divine 
thought and purpose, moving outwards with them. 
And this is the first petition, that the name of God 
may be hallowed throughout the world; that is, that 
men's conceptions of the Deity may become just and 
holy, until earth gives back in echo the Trisagian of the 
seraphim. The second petition is a continuation of 
the first ; for just in proportion as men's conceptions 
of God are corrected and hallowed will the kingdom 
of God be set up on earth. The first petition, like that 
of the Psalmist, is for the sending out of "Thy light 
and Thy truth ; " the second is that humanity may 


be led to the " holy hill/' praising God upon the harp, 
and finding in God their " exceeding joy." To find 
God as the Father-King is to step up within the 

The prayer now descends into the lower plane of 
personal wants, covering (i) our physical, and (2) our 
spiritual needs. The former are met with one petition, 
" Give us day by day our daily bread/ 7 a sentence 
confessedly obscure, and which has given rise to much 
dispute. Some interpret it in a spiritual sense alone, 
since, as they say, any other interpretation would 
break in upon the uniformity of the prayer, whose 
other terms are all spiritual. But if, as we have sug- 
gested, the whole prayer must be regarded as an 
epitome of prayer in general, then it must include some- 
where our physical needs, or a large and important 
domain of our life is left uncovered. As to the meaning 
of the singular adjective emovcriov we need not say 
much. That it can scarcely mean {{ to-morrow's " 
bread is evident from the warning Jesus gives against 
"taking thought' 1 for the morrow, and we must not 
allow the prayer to traverse the command. The most 
natural and likely interpretation is that which the heart 
of mankind has always given it, as our " daily " bread, 
or bread sufficient for the day. Jesus thus selects 
what is the most common of our physical wants, the 
bread which comes to us in such purely natural, 
matter-of-course ways, as the specimen need of our 
physical life. But when He thus lifts up this common, 
ever-recurring mercy into the region of prayer He puts 
a halo of Divineness about it, and by including this 
He teaches us that there is no want of even our 
physical life which is excluded from the realm of prayer. 
If we are invited to speak with God concerning our 


daily bread, then certainly we need not be silent as to 
aught else. 

Our spiritual needs are included in the two petitions, 
" And forgive us our sins ; for we ourselves also forgive 
every one that is indebted to us, And bring us not into 
temptation." The parenthesis does not imply that all 
debts should be remitted, for payment of these is en- 
joined as one of the duties of life. The indebtedness 
spoken of is rather the New Testament indebtedness, 
the failure of duty or courtesy, the omission of some 
" ought " of life or some injury or offence. It is that 
human forgiveness, the opposite of resentment, which 
grows up under the shadow of the Divine forgiveness. 
The former of these petitions, then, is for the forgive- 
ness of all past sin, while the latter is for deliverance 
from present sinning; for when we pray, "Bring us 
not into temptation," it is a prayer that we may not 
be tempted " above that we are able," which, amplified, 
means that in all our temptations we may be victorious, 
" kept by the power of God." 

Such, then, is the wide realm of prayer, as indicated 
by Jesus. He assures us that there is no department 
of our being, no circumstance of our life, which does 
not lie within its range ; that 

" The whole round world is every way 
Bound with gold chains about the feet of God," 

and that on these golden chains, as on a harp, the 
touch of prayer may wake sweet music, far-off or near 
alike. Aid how much we miss through restraining 
prayer, reserving it for special occasions, or for the 
greater crises of life ! But if we would only loop up 
with heaven each successive hour, if we would only 
run the thread of prayer through the common events 


and the common tasks, we should find the whole day 
and the whole life swinging on a higher, calmer level. 
The common task would cease to be common, and the 
earthly would be less earthly, if we only threw a bit 
of heaven upon it, or we opened it out to heaven. If 
in everything we could but make our requests known 
unto God that is, if prayer became the habitual act 
of life we should find that heaven was no longer the 
land " afar off," but that it was close upon us, with all 
its proffered ministries. 

Again, Jesus teaches the importance of earnestness 
and importunity in prayer. He sketches the picture 
for it is scarcely a parable of the man whose hospitality 
is claimed, late at night, by a passing friend, but who 
has no provision made for the emergency. He goes 
over to another friend, and rousing him up at midnight, 
he asks for the loan of three loaves. And with what 
result ? Does the man answer from within, " Trouble 
me not : the door is now shut, and my children are 
with me in bed ; I cannot rise and give thee " ? No, 
that would be an impossible answer ; for " though he 
will not rise and give him because he is his friend, 
yet because of his importunity he will rise and give 
him as many as he needeth " (xi. 8). It is the un- 
reasonableness, or at any rate the untimeliness of the 
request Jesus seems to emphasize. The man himself 
is thoughtless, improvident in his household manage- 
ment He disturbs his neighbour, waking up his 
whole family at midnight for such a trivial matter 
as the loan of three loaves. But he gains his request, 
not, either, on the ground of friendship, but through 
sheer audacity, impudence ; for such is the meaning 
of the word, rather than importunity. The lesson is 
easily learned, for the suppressed comparison would 


be, "If man, being evil, will put himself out of the 
way to serve a friend, even at this untimely hour, 
filling up by his thoughtfulness his friend's lack of 
thought, how much more will the heavenly Father give 
to His child such things as are needful ? " 

We have the same lesson taught in the parable of 
the Unjust Judge (xviii. i), that " men ought always 
to pray, and not to faint." Here, however, the charac- 
ters are reversed. The suppliant is a poor and a 
wronged widow, while the person addressed is a hard, 
selfish, godless man, who boasts of his atheism. She 
asks, not for a favour, but for her rights that she may 
have due protection from some extortionate adversary, 
who somehow has got her in his power ; for justice 
rather than vengeance is her demand. But " he would 
not for awhile," and all her cries for pity and for help 
beat upon that callous heart only as the surf upon a 
rocky shore, to be thrown back upon itself. But after- 
wards he said within himself, " Though I fear not God, 
nor regard man, yet because this widow troubleth me, 
I will avenge her, lest she wear me out by her continual 
coming." And so he is moved to take her part against 
her adversary, not for any motive of compassion or 
sense of justice, but through mere selfishness, that he 
may escape the annoyance of her frequent visits lest 
her continual coming "worry" me, as the colloquial 
expression might be rendered. Here the comparison, or 
contrast rather, is expressed, at any rate in part. It is, 
" If an unjust and abandoned judge grants a just peti- 
tion at last, out of base motives, when it is often urged, 
to a defenceless person for whom he cares nothing, how 
much more shall a just and merciful God hear the cry 
and avenge the cause of those whom He loves ?" * 



It is a resolute persistence in prayer the parable 
urges, the continued asking, and seeking, and knocking 
that Jesus both commended and commanded (xi. 9), 
and which has the promise of such certain answers, 
and not the tantalizing mockeries of stones for bread, 
or scorpions for fish. Some blessings lie near at hand ; 
we have only to ask, and we receive receive even while 
we ask. But other blessings lie farther off, and they 
can only be ours by a continuance in prayer, by a 
persistent importunity. Not that our heavenly Father 
needs any wearying into mercy ; but the blessing may 
not be ripe, or we ourselves may not be fully prepared 
to receive it. A blessing for which we are unprepared 
would only be an untimely blessing, and like a December 
swallow, it would soon die, without nest or brood. And 
sometimes the long delay is but a test of faith, whetting 
and sharpening the desire, until our very life seems to 
depend upon the granting of our prayer. So long as 
our prayers are among the "may-beV and u mights" 
there are fears and doubts alternating with our hope 
and faith. But when the desires are intensified, and 
our prayers rise into the " must-be's," then the answers 
are near at hand ; for that " must be * is the soul's 
Mahanaim, where the angels meet us, and God Himself 
says " I will." Delays in our prayers are by no means 
denials ; they are often but the lengthened summer 
for the ripening of our blessings, making them larger 
and more sweet. 

And now we have only to consider, which we must 
do briefly, the practice of Jesus, the place of prayer in 
His own life ; and we shall find that in every point it 
coincides exactly with His teaching. To us of the 
clouded vision heaven is sometimes a hope more than 
a reality. It is an unseen goal, luring us across the 


wilderness, and which one of these days we may pos- 
sess ; but it is not to us as the wide-reaching, encircling 
sky, throwing its sunshine into each day, and lighting 
up our nights with its thousand lamps. To Jesus, 
heaven was more and nearer than it is to us. He had 
left it behind ; and yet He had not left it, for He speaks 
of Himself, the Son of man, as being now in heaven. 
And so He was. His feet were upon earth, at home 
amid its dust ; but His heart, His truer life, were all 
above. And how constant His correspondence, or 
rather communion, with heaven ! At first sight it 
appears strange to us that Jesus should need the 
sustenance of prayer, or that He could even adopt 
its language. But when He became the Son of man 
He voluntarily assumed the needs of humanity ; He 
"emptied Himself," as the Apostle expresses a great 
mystery, as if for the time divesting Himself of all 
Divine prerogatives, choosing to live as man amongst 
men. And so Jesus prayed. He was wont, even as 
we are, to refresh a wasted strength by draughts from 
the celestial springs ; and as Antaeus, in his wrestling, 
recovered himself as he touched the ground, so we find 
Jesus, in the great crises of His life, falling back upon 

St. Luke, in his narrative of the Baptism, inserts one 
fact the other Synoptists omit that Jesus was in the act 
of prayer when the heavens were opened, and the Holy 
Ghost descended, in the semblance of a dove, upon Him, 
It is as if the opened heavens, the descending dove, and 
the audible voice were but the answer to His prayer. 
And why not? Standing on the threshold of His 
mission, would He not naturally ask that a double 
portion of the Spirit might be His that Heaven might 
put its manifest seal upon that mission, if not for the 


confirmation of His own faith, yet for that of His fore- 
runner ? At any rate, the fact is plain that it was while 
He was in the act of prayer that He received that 
second and higher baptism, even the baptism of the 

A second epoch in that Divine life was when Jesus 
formally instituted the Apostleship, calling and initiat- 
ing the Twelve into the closer brotherhood. It was, so 
to speak, the appointment of a regency, who should 
exercise authority and rule in the new kingdom, 
sitting,as Jesus figuratively expresses it (xxii. 30), "on 
thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." It is easy 
to see what tremendous issues were involved in this 
appointment ; for were these foundation-stones untrue, 
warped by jealousies and vain ambitions, the whole 
superstructure would have been weakened, thrown out 
of the square. And so before the selection is made, a 
selection demanding such insight and foresight, such 
a balancing of complementary gifts, Jesus devotes the 
whole night to prayer, seeking the solitude of the 
mountain-height, and in the early dawn coming down, 
with the dews of night upon His garment and with the 
dews of heaven upon His soul, which, like crystals or 
lenses of light, made the invisible visible and the distant 

A third crisis in that Divine life was at the Trans- 
figuration, when the summit was reached, the border- 
line between earth and heaven, where, amid celestial 
greetings and overshadowing clouds of glory, that 
sinless life would have had its natural transition into 
heaven. And here again we find the same coincidence 
of prayer. Both St. Mark and St. Luke state that the 
" high mountain " was climbed for the express purpose 
of communion with Heaven ; they " went up into the 


mountain to pray." It is only St. Luke, however, who 
states that it was "as He was praying" the fashion of 
His countenance was altered, thus making the vision 
an answer, or at least a corollary, to the prayer. He is 
at a point where two ways meet : the one passes into 
heaven at once, from that high level to which by a 
sinless life He has attained ; the other path sweeps 
suddenly downward to a valley of agony, a cross of 
shame, a tomb of death ; and after this wide detour the 
heavenly heights are reached again. Which path will 
He choose ? If He takes the one He passes solitary 
into heaven ; if He takes the other He brings with Him 
a redeemed humanity. And does not this give us, in a 
sort of echo, the burden of His prayer? He finds the 
shadow of the cross thrown over this heaven-lighted 
summit for when Moses and Elias appear they would 
not introduce a subject altogether new ; they would in 
their conversation strike in with the theme with which 
His mind is already preoccupied, that is the decease He 
should accomplish at Jerusalem and as the chill of that 
shadow settles upon Him, causing the flesh to shrink 
and quiver for a while, would He not seek for the 
strength He needs ? Would He next ask, as later, in 
the garden, that the cup might pass from Him ; or if 
that should not be possible, that His will might not 
conflict with the Father's will, even for a passing 
moment ? At any rate we may suppose that the vision 
was, in some way, Heaven's answer to His prayer, 
giving Him the solace and strengthening that He 
sought, as the Father's voice attested His Sonship, and 
celestials came forth to salute the Well-beloved, and to 
hearten Him on towards His dark goal. 

Just so was it when Jesus kept His fourth watch 
in Gethsemane. What Gethsemane was, and what 


its fearful agony meant, we shall consider in a later 
chapter. It is enough for our present purpose to see 
how Jesus consecrated that deep valley, as before He 
had consecrated the Transfiguration height, to prayer. 
Leaving the three outside the veil of the darkness, He 
passes into Gethsemane, as into another Holy of holies, 
there to offer up for His own and for Himself the 
sacrifice of prayer; while as our High Priest He 
sprinkles with His own blood, that blood of the ever- 
lasting covenant, the sacred ground. And what prayer 
was that! how intensely fervent! That if it were 
possible the dread cup might pass from Him, but that 
either way the Father's will might be done ! And that 
prayer was the prelude to victory; for as the first 
Adam fell by the assertion of self, the clashing of his 
will with God's, the second Adam conquers by the total 
surrender of His will to the will of the Father. The 
agony was lost in the acquiescence. 

But it was not alone in the great crises of His life 
that Jesus fell back upon Heaven. Prayer with Him 
was habitual, the fragrant atmosphere in which He 
lived, and moved, and spoke. His words glide as by 
a natural transition into its language, as a bird whose 
feet have lightly touched the ground suddenly takes to 
its wings ; and again and again we find Him pausing 
in the weaving of His speech, to throw across the 
earthward warp the heavenward woof of prayer. It 
was a necessity of His life ; and if the intrusive crowds 
allowed Him no time for its exercise, He was wont to 
elude them, to find upon the mountain or in the desert 
His prayer-chamber beneath the stars. And how 
frequently we read of His t{ looking up to heaven" 
amid the pauses of His daily task I stopping before He 
breaks the bread, and on the mirror of His upturned 


glance leading the thoughts and thanks of the multi- 
tude to the All-Father, who giveth to all His creatures 
their meat in due season ; or pausing as He works 
some impromptu miracle, before speaking the omnipo- 
tent " Ephphatha," that on His upward look He may 
signal to the skies ! And what a light is turned upon 
His life and His relation to His disciples by a simple 
incident that occurs on the night of the betrayal ! 
Reading the sign of the times, in His forecast of the 
dark to-morrow, He sees the terrible strain that wiU 
be put upon Peter's faith, and which He likens to a 
Satanic sifting. With prescient eye He sees the 
temporary collapse ; how, in the fierce heat of the 
trial, the " rock " will be thrown into a state of flux ; so 
weak and pliant, it will be all rippled by agitation and 
unrest, or driven back at the mere breath of a servant- 
girl. He says mournfully, "Simon, Simon, behold, 
Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as 
wheat : but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith 
fail not" (xxii. 31). So completely does Jesus identify 
Himself with His own, making their separate needs 
His care (for this doubtless was no solitary case) ; but 
just as the High Priest carried on his breastplate the 
twelve tribal names, thus bringing all Israel within the 
light of Urim and Thummim, so Jesus carries within 
His heart both the name and the need of each separate 
disciple, asking for them in prayer whafc, perhaps, they 
have failed to ask for themselves. Nor are the prayers 
of Jesus limited by any such narrow circle ^ they com- 
passed the world, lighting up all horizons; and even 
upon tke cross, amid the jeers and laughter of the 
crowd, He forgets His own agonies, as with parched 
lips He prays for His murderers, "Father, forgive 
them ; for they know not what they do." 



Thus, more than any son of man, did Jesus u pray 
without ceasing," " in everything by prayer and sup- 
plication with thanksgiving" making request unto God. 
Shall we not copy His bright example ? shall we not, 
too, live, labour, and endure, as " seeing Him who is 
invisible " ? He who lives a life of prayer will never 
question its reality. He who sees God in everything, 
and everything in God, will turn his life into a south 
land, with upper and nether springs of blessing in 
ceaseless flow; for the life that lies full heavenward 
lies in perpetual summer, in the eternal noon. 


LUKE vii. i-io. 

OUR Evangelist prefaces the narrative of the heal- 
ing of the centurion's servant with one of his 
characteristic time-marks, the shadow upon his dial- 
plate being the shadow of the new mount of God : 
" After He had ended all His sayings in the ears of 
the people, He entered into Capernaum." The language 
is unusually weighty, almost solemn, as if the Sermon 
on the Mount were not so much a sermon as a mani- 
festo, the formal proclamation of the kingdom of heaven. 
Our word " ended," too, is scarcely an equivalent of 
the original word, whose underlying idea is that of 
fulness, completion. It is more than a full-stop to 
point a sentence; it is a word that characterizes the 
sentence itself, suggesting, if not implying, that these 
" sayings " of His formed a complete and rounded 
whole, a body of moral and ethical truth which was 
perfect in itself. The Mount of Beatitudes thus stands 
before us as the Sinai of the New Testament, giviqg 
its laws to all peoples and to all times. - But how 
different the aspect of the two mounts ! Then the 
people dare not touch the mountain ; now they press 
close up to the " Prophet like unto 'Moses" to hear the 
wor4 of God. Then the Law came in a cluster of 
restrictions and negations ; now it speaks in commands 


most positive, in principles permanent as time itself; 
while from this new Sinai the clouds have disappeared, 
the thunders ceased, leaving a sky serene and bright, 
and a heaven which is strangely -near. 

Returning to Capernaum which city, after the ejec- 
tion from Nazareth, became the home of Jesus, and 
the centre of His Galilean ministry He was met by 
a deputation of Jewish elders, who came to intercede 
with Him on behalf of a centurion whose servant was 
lying dangerously ill and apparently at the point of 
death. The narrative thus gives us, as its dramatis 
personce, the Sufferer, the Intercessor, and the Healer. 

As we read the story our thought is arrested, and 
naturally so, by the central figure. The imposing 
shadow of the centurion so completely fills our range 
of vision that it throws into the background the name- 
less one who in his secret chamber is struggling vainly 
in the tightening grip of death. But who is he who 
can command such a service ? around whose couch is 
such a multitude of ministering feet ? who is he 
whose panting breath can throw over the heart of his 
master, and over his face, the ripple-marks of a great 
sorrow, which sends hither and thither, as the wind 
tosses the dry leaves, soldiers of the army, elders of 
the Jews, friends of the master, and which makes 
even the feet of the Lord hasten with His succour ? 

"And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear 
unto him, was sick and at the point of death." Such 
is the brief sentence which describes a character, and 
sums up the whole of an obscure life. We are not 
able to define precisely his position, for the word leaves 
us in doubt whether he were a slave or a servant of the 
centurion. Probably if we may throw the light of 
the whole narrative upon the word he was a confiden- 


tial servant, living in the house of his master, on terms 
of more than usual intimacy. What those terms were 
we may easily discover by opening out the word " dear/' 
reading its depths as well as its surface-meaning. In 
its lower sense it means "valuable," " worth-y w (putting 
its ancient accent upon the modern word). It sets the 
man, not over against the tables of the Law, but against 
the law of the tables, weighing him in the balances of 
trade, and estimating him by the scale of commercial 
values. But in this meaner, worldly mode of reckoning 
he is not found wanting. He is a servant proved and 
approved. Like Eliezer of old, he has identified himself 
with his master's interests, listening for his voice, and 
learning to read even the wishes which were unexpressed 
in words. Adjusting his will to the higher will, like 
a vane answering the currents of the wind, his hands, 
his feet, and his whole self have swung round to fall 
into the drift of his master's purpose. Faithful in his 
service, whether that service were under the master's 
eye or not, and faithful alike in the great and the little 
things, he has entered into his master's confidence, and 
so into his joy. Losing his own personality, he is con- 
tent to be something between a cipher and a unit, only 
a "hand." But he is the master's right hand, strong 
and ever ready, so useful as to be almost an integral 
part of the master's self, without which the master's life 
would be incomplete and strangely bereaved. All this 
we may learn from the lower meaning of the phrase 
" was dear unto him." 

But the word has a higher meaning, one that is 
properly rendered by our "dear." It implies esteem, 
affection, transferring our thought from the subject to 
the object, from the character of the servant to the 
influence it has exerted upon the master. The word is 


thus an index, a barometrical reading, measuring for us 
the .pressure of that influence, and recording for us the 
high sentiments of regard and affection it has evoked. 
As the trees around the pond lean towards the water 
which laves their roots, so the strong soul of the cen- 
turion, drawn by the attractions of a lowly but a noble 
life, leans toward, until it leans upon, his servant, giving 
him its confidence, its esteem and love, that golden 
fruitage of the heart That such was the mutual 
relation of the master and the servant is evident, for 
Jesus, who read motives and heard thoughts, would not 
so freely and promptly have placed His miraculous 
power at the disposal of the centurion had his sorrow 
been only the selfish sorrow of losing what was com- 
mercially valuable. To an appeal of selfishness, though 
thrown forward and magnified by the sounding-boards 
of all the synagogues, the ears of Jesus would have 
been perfectly deaf; but when it was the cry of a 
genuine sorrow, the moan of a vicarious pain, an 
unselfish, disinterested grief, then the ears of Jesus 
were quick to hear, and His feet swift to respond. 

It is impossible for us to define exactly what the 
sickness was, though the statement of St. Matthew 
that it was " palsy," and that he was " grievously tor- 
mented/' would suggest that it might be an acute case 
of inflammatory rheumatism. But whatever it might 
be, it was a most painful, and as every one thought a 
mortal sickness, one that left no room for hope, save 
this last hope in the Divine mercy. But what a lesson 
is here for our times, as indeed for all times, the lesson 
of humanity ! How little does Heaven make of rank 
and station ! Jesus does not even see them ; He 
ignores them utterly. To His mind Humanity is one, 
and the broad lines of distinction, the impassable 

vii. i-io.] THE FAITH OF THE CENTURION. 199 

barriers Society is fond of drawing or setting up, to 
Him are but imaginary meridians of the sea, a name, 
but nothing more. It is but a nameless servant of a 
nameless master, one, too, of many, for a hundred 
others are ready, with military precision, to do that 
same master's will ; but Jesus does not hesitate. He 
who voluntarily took upon Himself the form of a ser- 
vant, as He came into the world " not to be ministered 
unto, but to minister/' now becomes the Servant of a 
servant, saying to him who knew only how to obey, 
how to serve, " Here am I ; command Me ; use Me 
as thou wilt." All service is honourable, if we serve 
not ourselves, but our fellows, and it is doubly so if, 
serving man, we serve God too. As the sunshine looks 
down into, and strews with flowers, the lowest vales, 
so the Divine compassion falls on the lowliest lives, and 
the Divine grace makes them sweet and beautiful. 
Christianity is the great leveller, but it levels upwards, 
and if we possess the mind of Christ, His Spirit dwell- 
ing and ruling within, we too, like the great Apostle, 
shall know no man after the flesh; the accidents of 
birth, and rank, and fortune will sink back ' into the 
trifles that they are ; for however these may vary) it is 
an eternal truth, though spoken by a son of the soil 
and the heather 

" A man's a man for a' that." 

It is not easy to tell how the seed-thought is borne 
into a heart, there to germinate and ripen ; for influences 
are subtle, invisible things. Like the pollen of a 
flower, which may be carried on the antennae of some 
unconscious insect, or borne into the future by the 
passing breeze, so influences which will yet ripen into 
character and make destinies are thrown off uncon- 


sciously from our common deeds, or they are borne on 
the wings of the chance, casual word. The case of 
the centurion is no exception. By what steps he has 
been brought into the clearer light we cannot tell, but 
evidently this Pagan officer is now a proselyte to the 
Hebrew faith and worship, the window of his soul 
open towards Jerusalem, while his professional life 
still looks towards Rome, as he renders to Caesar the 
allegiance and service which are Caesar's due. And 
what a testimony it is to the vitality and reproductive 
power of the Hebrew faith, that it should boast of at 
least three centurions, in the imperial ranks, of whom 
Scripture makes honourable mention one at Caper- 
naum ; another, Cornelius, at Csesarea, whose prayers 
and alms were had in remembrance of Heaven ; and the 
third in Jerusalem, witnessing a good confession upon 
Calvary, and proclaiming within the shadow of the 
cross the Divinity of the Crucified. It shows how the 
Paganism of Rome failed to satisfy the aspirations of 
the soul, and how Mars, red and lurid through the 
night, paled and disappeared at the rising of the Sun. 

Although identifying himself with the religious life 
of the city, the centurion had not yet had any personal 
interview with Jesus. Possibly his military duties 
prevented his attendance at the synagogue, so that he 
had not seen the cures Jesus there wrought upon the 
demoniac and the man with the withered hand. The 
report of them, however, must soon have reached him, 
intimate as he was with the officials of the synagogue ; 
while the nobleman, the cure of whose sick son is 
narrated by St. John (iv. 46), would probably be 
amongst his personal friends, an acquaintance at any 
rate. The centurion " heard " of Jesus, but he could 
not have heard had not some one spoken of Him. The 


Christ was borne into his mind and heart on the breath 
of common speech ; that is, the little human word grew 
into the Divine Word. It was the verbal testimony 
as to what Jesus had done that now led to the still 
greater things He was prepared to do. And such is 
the place and power of testimony to-day. It is the 
most persuasive, the most effective form of speech. 
Testimony will often win where argument has failed, 
and gold itself is all-powerless to extend the frontiers 
of the heavenly kingdom until it is melted down and 
exchanged for the higher currency of speech. It is 
first the human voice crying in the wilderness, and 
then the incarnate Word, whose coming makes the 
wilderness to be glad, and the desert places of life to 
sing. And so, while a sword of flame guards the 
Paradise Lost, it is a " tongue " of flame, that symbol 
of a perpetual Pentecost, which calls man back, re- 
deemed now, to the Paradise Restored. If Christians 
would only speak more for Christ ; if, shaking off that 
foolish reserve, they would in simple language testify 
to what they themselves have seen, and known, and 
experienced, how rapidly would the kingdom come, 
the kingdom for which we pray, indeed, but for which, 
alas, we are afraid to speak ! Nations then would be 
born in a day, and the millennium, instead of being the 
distant or the forlorn hope it is, would be a speedy 
realization. We should be in the fringe of it directly. 
It is said that on one of the Alpine glaciers the guides 
forbid travellers to speak, lest the mere tremor of the 
human voice should loosen and bring down the deadly 
avalanche. Whether this be so or not, it was some 
unnamed voice that now sent the centurion to Christ, 
and brought the Christ to him. 

It was probably a sudden relapse, with increased 


paroxysms of pain, on the part of the sufferer, which 
now decided the centurion to make his appeal to 
Jesus, sending a deputation of Jewish elders, as the 
day was on the wane, to the house to which Jesus had 
now returned. They make their request that " He 
would come and save the servant of the centurion, 
who was now lying at the point of death." True 
advocates, and skilful, were these elders. They made 
the centurion's cause their own, as if their hearts had 
caught the rhythmic beat of his great sorrow, and 
when Jesus held back a little as He often did, to test 
the intensity of the desire and the sincerity of the 
suppliant "they besought Him earnestly/ 7 or "kept 
on beseeching," as the tense of the verb would imply, 
crowning their entreaty with the plea, " He is worthy 
that Thou shouldest do this, for he loveth our nation, 
and himself built us our synagogue." Possibly they 
feared putting a Hebrew construction upon His sym- 
pathiesthat Jesus would demur, and perhaps refuse, 
because their client was a foreigner. They did jiot 
know, what we know so well, that the mercy of Jesus 
was as broad as it was deep, knowing no bounds 
where its waves of blessing are stayed. But how 
forceful and prevalent was their plea ! Though they 
knew it not, these elders do but ask Jesus to illustrate 
the words He has just spoken, " Give, and it shall be 
given unto you." And had not Jesus laid this down as 
one of the laws of mercy, that action and reaction are 
equal ? Had He not been describing the orbit in 
which blessings travel, showing that though its orbit 
be apparently eccentric at times, like the boomerang, 
that wheels round and comes back to the hand that 
threw it forward, the mercy, shown will eventually 
come back to him who showed it, with a wealth of 

vii. i-icx] THE FAITH OF THE CENTURION. 203 

heavenly usury ? And so their plea was the one of all 
others to be availing. It was the precept of the mount 
evolved into practice. It was, " Bless him, for he has 
richly blessed us. He has opened his hand ; showering 
his favours upon us ; do Thou open Thine hand now, 
and show him that the God of the Hebrews is a God 
who hears, and heeds, and helps." 

It has been thought, from the language of the elders, 
that the synagogue built by the centurion was the 
only one that Capernaum possessed; for they speak 
of it as " the " synagogue. But this does not follow, 
and indeed it is most improbable. They might still 
call it " the " synagogue, not because it was the only 
one, but because it was the one foremost and upper- 
most in their thought, the one in which they were 
particularly interested. The definite article no more 
proves this to be the only synagogue in Capernaum 
than the phrase " the house " (ver. 10) proves the house 
of the centurion to be the only house of the city. The 
fact is that in the Gospel age Capernaum was a busy 
and important place, as shown by its possessing a 
garrison of soldiers, and by its being the place of 
custom, situated as it was on the great highway of 
trade. And if Jerusalem could boast of four hundred 
synagogues, and Tiberias a city not even named by 
the Synoptists fourteen, Capernaum certainly would 
possess more than one. Indeed, had Capernaum been 
the insignificant village that one synagogue would 
imply, then, instead of deserving the bitter woes Jesus 
pronounced upon it, it would have deserved the highest 
commendation, as the most fruitful field in all His 
ministry, giving Him, besides other disciples, a ruler 
of the Jews and the commandant of the garrison. That 
it deserved such bitter " woes " proves that Capernaum 


had a population both dense and, in the general, hostile 
to Jesus, compared with which His friends and 
adherents were a feeble few. 

In spite of the negative manner Jesus purposely 
showed at the first, He fully intended to grant all the 
elders had asked, and allowing them now to guide 
Him, He "went with them." When, however, they 
were come near the house ; the centurion sent other 
"friends" to intercept Jesus, and to urge Him not to 
take any further trouble. The message, which they 
deliver in the exact form in which it was given to them, 
is so characteristic and exquisitely beautiful that it is 
best to give it entire : " Lord, trouble not Thyself: for 
I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my 
roof: wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to 
come unto Thee : but say the word, and my .servant shall 
be healed. For 1 also am a man set under authority, 
having under myself soldiers : and I say to this one, Go, 
and he goeth ; and to another, Come, and he cometh ; 
and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it." 

The narrative of St. Matthew differs slightly from 
that of St. Luke, in that he omits all reference to the 
two deputations, speaking of the interview as being 
personal with the centurion. But St. Matthew's is 
evidently an abbreviated narrative, and he passes over 
the intermediaries, in accordance with the maxim that 
he who acts through another does it per se. But both 
agree as to the terms of the message, a message which 
is at once a marvel and a rebuke to us, and one which 
was indeed deserving of being twice recorded and 
eulogized in the pages of the Gospels. 

And how the message reveals the man, disclosing 
as in a transparency the character of this nameless 
foreigner ! We have already seen how broad were his 


sympathies, and how generous his deeds, as he makes 
room in his large heart for a conquered and despised 
people, at his own cost building a temple for the 
exercises of their faith. We have seen, too, what a 
wealth of tenderness and benevolence was hiding be- 
neath a somewhat stern exterior, in his affection for a 
servant, and his anxious solicitude for that servant's 
health. But now we see in the centurion other graces 
of character, that set him high amongst those " outside 
saints " who worshipped in the outer courts, until such 
time as the veil of the Temple was rent in twain, and 
the way into the Holiest was opened for all. And what 
a beautiful humility is here ! what an absence of as- 
sumption or of pride 1 Occupying an honoured posi- 
tion, representing in his own person an empire which 
was world-wide, surrounded by troops of friends, and 
by all the comforts wealth could buy, accustomed to 
speak in imperative, if not in imperious ways, yet as 
he turns towards Jesus it is with a respectful, yea, a 
reverential demeanour. He feels himself in the presence 
of some Higher Being, ^an unseen but august Csesar. 
Nay, not in His presence either, for into that audience- 
chamber he feels that he^as neither the fitness nor the 
right to intrude. All that he can do is to send forward 
his petition by the hands of worthier advocates, who 
"have access to Him, while he himself keeps back out 
of sight, with bared feet standing by the outer gate. 
Others can speak well and highly of him, recounting 
his noble deeds, but of himself he has nothing good to 
say ; he can only speak of self in terms of disparage- 
ment, as he emphasizes his littleness, his unworthiness. 
Nor was it with him the conventional hyperbole of 
Eastern manners ; it was the language of deepest, 
sincerest truth, when he said that he was not worthy 


even to speak with Christ, or to receive such a Guest 
beneath his roof. Between himself and the One he reve- 
rently addressed as " Lord " there was an infinite dis- 
tance ; for one was human, while the Other was Divine. 

And what a rare and remarkable faith! In his 
thought Jesus is an Imperator, commanding all forces, 
as He rules the invisible .realms. His will is supreme 
over all substances, across all distances. " Thou hast 
no need, Lord, to take any trouble about my poor 
request. There is no necessity that Thou shouldest 
take one step, or even lift up a finger ; Thou hast only 
to speak the word, and it is done ; " and then he gives 
that wonderfully graphic illustration borrowed from his 
own military life. 

The passage " For I also am a man set under 
authority" is generally rendered as referring to his 
own subordinate position under the Chiliarch. But 
such a rendering, as it seems to us, breaks the con- 
tinuity of thought, and grammatically is scarcely 
accurate. The whole passage is an amplification and 
description of the " word " of ver. 7, and the " also " 
introduces something the centurion and Jesus possess 
in common, *>., the power to command ; for the " I 
also n certainly corresponds with the " Thou " which is 
implied, but not expressed. But the centurion did not 
mean to imply that Jesus possessed only limited, dele- 
gated powers ; this was farthest from his thought, and 
formed no part of the comparison. But let the clause 
"I also am a man set under authority" be rendered, 
not as referring to the authority which is above him, 
but to that which is upon him " I also am vested with 
authority/' or " Authority is put upon me " and the 
meaning becomes clear. The " also r; is no longer 
warped into an ungramrnatical meaning, introducing a 

vii. i-io.] THE FAITH OF THE CENTURION. 207 

contrast rather than a likeness ; while the clause which 
follows, " having under myself soldiers/ 7 takes its proper 
place as an enlargement and explanation of the " autho- 
rity " with which the centurion is invested. 

The centurion speaks in a soldierly way. There is 
a crispness and sharpness about his tones that Shib- 
boleth of militaryism. He says, " My word is all- 
powerful in the ranks which I command. I have but 
to say 'Come/ or 'Go/ and my word is instantly 
obeyed. The soldier upon whose ear it falls dare not 
hesitate, any more than he dare refuse. He ' goes ' at 
my word, anywhither, on some forlorn hope it may be, 
or to his grave." And such is the obedience, instant 
and absolute, that military service demands. The 
soldier must not question, he must obey ; he must not 
reason, he must act ; for when the word of command 
that leaded word of authority falls upon his ear, it 
completely fills his soul, and makes him deaf to all 
other, meaner voices. 

Such was the thought in the centurion's mind, and 
from the "go" and "come" of military authority to 
the higher "word" of Jesus the transition is easy. 
But how strong the faith that could give to Jesus such 
an enthronement, that could clothe His word with such 
superhuman power ! Yonder, in his secluded chamber, 
lies the sufferer, his nerves quivering in their pain, 
while the mortal sickness physicians and remedies 
have all failed to touch, much less to remove, has 
dragged him close up to the gate of death. But this 
"word" of Jesus shall be all-sufficient Spoken here 
and now, it shall pass over the intervening streets and 
through the interposing walls and doors ; it shall say 
to these demons of evil, " Loose him, and let him go," 
and in a moment the torturing pain shall cease, the 


fluttering heart shall resume its healthy, steady beat, 
the rigid muscles shall become pliant as before, while 
through arteries and veins the life-blood its poison 
all extracted now shall regain its healthful, quiet flow. 
The centurion believed all this of the " word " of Jesus, 
and even more. In his heart it was a word all-potent, 
if not omnipotent, like to the word of Him who " spake, 
and it was done," who " commanded, and it stood fast." 
And if the word of Jesus in these realms of life and 
death was so imperative and all-commanding, could 
the Christ Himself be less than Divine ? 

To find such confidence reposed in Himself was to 
Jesus something new and to^ find this rarest plant of 
faith growing up on Gentile soil was a still greater 
marvel and turning to the multitude which clustered 
thick and eager around, He said to them, " I have 
not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." And 
commending the centurion's faith, He honours it too, 
doing all he requested, and even more, though without 
the "word." Jesus does not even say "I will," or 
"Be it so," but He works the instant and perfect 
cure by a mere volition. He wills it, and it is done, 
so that when the friends returned to the house they 
found the servant " whole." 

Of the sequel we know nothing. We do not even 
read that Jesus saw the man at whose faith He had so 
marvelled. But doubtless He did, for His heart was 
drawn strangely to him, and doubtless He gave to 
him many of those " words " for which his soul had 
longed and listened, words in which were held, as in 
solution, all authority and all truth. And doubtless, 
too, in the after-years, Jesus crowned that life of 
faithful but unnoted service with the higher "word,", 
the heavenly " Well done." 


LUKE vii. 36-50. 

WHETHER the narrative of the Anointing is 
inserted in its chronological order we cannot 
say, for the Evangelist gives us no word by which we 
may recognize either its time or its place-relation ; but 
we can easily see that it falls into the story artistically, 
with a singular fitness. Going back to the context, we 
find Jesus pronouncing a high eulogium upon John 
the Baptist. Hereupon the Evangelist adds a statement 
of his own, calling attention to the fact that even 
John's ministry failed to reach and influence the 
Pharisees and lawyers, who rejected the counsel of 
God, and declined the baptism of His messenger. 
Then Jesus, in one of His brief but exquisite parables, 
sketches the character of the Pharisees. Recalling a 
scene of the market-place, where the children were 
accustomed to play at " weddings " and " funerals " 
which, by the way, are the only games at which the 
children of the land play to-day and where sometimes 
the play was spoiled and stopped by some of the 
children getting into a pet, and lapsing into a sullen 
silence, Jesus says that is jest a picture of the childish 
perversity of the Pharisees. They respond neither 
to the mourning of the one nor to the music of the 



other, but-because John came neither eating bread nor 
drinking wine, they call him a maniac, and say, " He 
hath a devil;" while of Jesus, who has no ascetic 
ways, but mingles in the gatherings of social life, a 
Man amongst men, they say, "Behold a gluttonous 
man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and 
sinners." And having recorded this, our Evangelist 
inserts, as an appropriate sequel, the account of the 
supper in the Pharisee's house, with its idyllic interlude, 
played by a woman's hand, a narrative which shows 
how Wisdom is justified of all her children, and how 
these condescensions of Jesus, His intercourse with 
even those who were ceremonially or morally unclean, 
were both proper and beautiful. 

It was in one of the Galilean towns, perhaps at Nain, 
where Jesus was surprised at receiving an invitation 
to the house of a Pharisee. Such courtesies on the 
part of a class who prided themselves on their exclu- 
siveness, and who were bitterly intolerant of all who 
were outside their narrow circle, were exceptional and 
rare. Besides, the teaching of Jesus was diametrically 
opposed to the leaven of the Pharisees. Between the 
caste of the one and the Catholicism of the other was 
a wide gulf of divergence. To Jesus the heart was 
everything, and the outflowing issues were coloured 
by its hues ; to the Pharisees the hand, the outward 
touch, was more than heart, and contact more than 
conduct. Jesus laid a Divine emphasis upon character; 
the cleanness He demanded was moral cleanness, 
purity of heart ; that of the Pharisees was a ceremonial 
cleanness, the avoidance of things which were under 
a ceremonial ban. And so they magnified the jots and 
tittles, scrupulously tithing their mint and anise, while 
they overlooked completely the moralities of the heart, 

vii. 36-50-] THE ANOINTING OF THE FEET. 211 

and reduced to a mere nothing those grander virtues 
of mercy and of justice. Between the Separatists and 
Jesus there was therefore constant friction, which 
afterwards developed into open hostility; and while 
they ever sought to damage Him with opprobriou 
epithets, and to bring His teaching into disrepute, He 
did not fail to expose their hollowness and insincerity, 
tearing off the veneer with which they sought to hide 
the brood of viperous things their creed had gendered, 
and to hurl against their whited sepulchres His indig- 
nant "woes." 

It would almost seem as if Jesus hesitated in accept- 
ing the invitation, for the tense of the verb " desired " 
implies that the request was repeated. Possibly 
other arrangements had been made, or perhaps Jesus 
sought to draw out and test the sincerity of the 
Pharisee, who in kind and courteous words offered his 
hospitality. The hesitation would certainly not arise 
from any reluctance on His part, for Jesus refused no 
open door; he welcomed any opportunity of influenc- 
ing a soul. As the shepherd of His own parable went 
over the mountainous paths in quest of his lone, lost 
sheep, so Jesus was glad to risk unkind aspersions, 
and to bear the " fierce light " of hostile, questioning 
eyes, if He might but rescue a soul, and win some 
erring one back to virtue and to truth. 

The character of the host we cannot exactly deter- 
mine. The narrative lights up his features but indis- 
tinctly, for the nameless "sinner " is the central object 
of the picture, while Simon stands in the background, 
out of focus, and so somewhat veiled in obscurity. To 
many he appears as the cold and heartless censor, 
distant and haughty, seeking by the guile of hospitality 
to entrap Jesus, hiding behind the mask of friendship 


some dark and sinister motive. But such deep shadows 
are cast by our own thoughts rather than by the 
narrative ; they are the random " guesses after truth," 
instead of the truth itself. It will be noticed that 
Jesus does not impugn in the least his motive in 
proffering his hospitality; and this, though but a 
negative evidence, is not without its weight, when on 
a similar occasion the evil motive was brought to light. 
The only charge laid against him if charge it be 
was the omission of certain points of etiquette that 
Eastern hospitality was accustomed to observe, and 
even here there is nothing to show that Jesus was 
treated differently from the other invited guests. The 
omission, while it failed to single out Jesus for special 
honour, might still mean no disrespect ; and at the 
most it was a breach of manners, deportment, rather 
than of morals, just one of those lapses Jesus was most 
ready to overlook and forgive. We shall form a juster 
estimate of the man's character if we regard him as a 
seeker after truth. Evidently he has felt a drawing 
towards Jesus ; indeed, ver. 47 would almost imply that 
he had received some personal benefit at His hands. 
Be this as it may, he is desirous of a closer and a freer 
intercourse. His mind is perplexed, the balances of 
his judgment swinging in alternate and opposite ways. 
A new problem has presented itself to him, and in that 
problem is one factor he cannot yet value. It is the 
unknown quantity, Jesus of Nazareth. Who is He ? 
what is He? A prophet the Prophet the Christ? 
Such are the questions running through his mind 
questions which must be answered soon, as his thoughts 
and opinions have ripened into convictions. And so 
he invites Jesus to his house and board, that in 
the nearer vision and the unfettered freedom of social 

vii. 36-50-] THE ANOINTING OF THE FEET 213 

intercourse he may solve the great enigma. Nay, he 
invites Jesus with a degree of earnestness, putting 
upon Him the constraint of a great desire; and 
leaving his heart open to conviction, ready to embrace 
the truth as soon as he recognizes it to be truth, he 
flings open the door of his hospitalities, though in so 
doing he shakes the whole fabric of Pharisaic exclusive- 
ness and sanctity. Seeking after truth, the truth finds 

There was a simplicity and freeness in the social 
life of the East which our Western civilization can 
scarcely understand. The door of the guest-chamber 
was left open, and the uninvited, even comparative 
strangers, were allowed to pass in and out during the 
entertainment; or they might take their seats by the 
wall, as spectators and listeners. It was so here. No 
sooner have the guests taken their places, reclining 
around the table, their bared feet projecting behind 
them, than the usual drift of the uninvited set in, 
amongst whom, almost unnoticed in the excitements of 
the hour, was a a woman of the city." Simon in his 
soliloquy speaks of her as " a sinner ; " but had we his 
testimony only, we should hesitate in giving to the 
word its usually received meaning ; for " sinner " was 
a pet term of the Pharisees, applied to all who were 
outside their circle, and even to Jesus Himself. But 
when our Evangelist, in describing her character, makes 
use of the same word, we can only interpret the " sin- 
ner" in one way, in its sensual, depraved meaning. 
And with this agrees the phrase " a woman which was 
in the city," which seems to indicate the loose rela- 
tions of her too-public life. 

Bearing in her hand "an alabaster cruse of oint- 
ment," for a purpose which soon became apparent, she 


passed over to the place where Jesus sat, and stood 
directly behind Him. Accustomed as she had been to 
hide her deeds in the veil of darkness, nothing but the 
current of a deep emotion could have carried her thus 
through the door of the guest-chanjber, setting her, 
alone of her sex, full in the glare of the lamps and the 
light of scornful eyes ; and no sooner' has she reached 
her goal than the storm of the heart breaks in a rain 
of tears, which fall hot and fast upon the feet of the 
Master. This, however, is no part of her plan ; they 
were impromptu tears she could not restrain ; and 
instantly she stoops down, and with the loosened 
tresses of her hair she wipes His feet, kissing them 
passionately as she did so. There is a delicate mean- 
ing in the construction of the Greek verb ; " she began 
to wet His feet with her tears ; " it implies that the 
action was not continued, as when afterwards she 
" anointed " His feet. It was momentary, instanta- 
neous, checked soon as it was discovered. Then pour- 
ing from her flask the fragrant nard, she proceeded with 
loving, leisurely haste to anoint His feet, until the whole 
chamber was redolent of the sweet perfume. 

But what is the meaning of this strange episode, 
this " song without words," struck by the woman's 
hands as from a lyre of alabaster ? It was evidently 
something determined, prearranged. The phrase " when 
she knew that He was sitting at meat " means some- 
thing more than she "heard." Her knowledge as to 
where Jesus was had not come to her in a casual way, 
in the vagrant gossip of the town; it had come by 
search and inquiry on her part, as if the plan were 
already determined, and she were eager to carry it out. 
The cruse of ointment that she brings also reveals the 
settled resolve that she came on purpose, and she 

vii. 36-50.] THE ANOINTING OF THE FEET. 215 

came only, to anoint the feet of Jesus. The word, too, 
rendered "she brought" has a deeper meaning than 
our translation conveys. It is a word that is used in 
ten other passages of the New Testament, where it 
is invariably rendered " receive/' or "received," refer- 
ring to something received as a wage, or as a gift, or 
as a prize. Used here in the narrative, it implies that 
the cruse of ointment had not been bought; it was 
something she had received as a gift, or possibly as 
the wages of her sin. And not only was it prearranged, 
part of a deliberate intention, but evidently it was not 
displeasing to Jesus. He did not resent it He gives 
Himself up passively to the woman's will. He allows 
her to touch, and even to kiss His feet, though He 
knows that to society she is a moral leper, and that 
her fragrant ointment is possibly the reward of her 
shame. We must, then, look behind the deed to, the 
motive. To Jesus the ointment and the tears were 
full of meaning, eloquent beyond any power of words. 
Can we discover that meaning, and read why they 
were so welcome ? We think we may. 

And here let us say that Simon's thoughts were 
perfectly natural and correct, with no word or tone 
that we can censure. Canon Farrar, it is true, detects 
in the " This man " with which he speaks of Jesus a 
"supercilious scorn;" but we fail to see the least 
scorn, or even disrespect, for the pronoun Simon uses 
is the identical word used by St. Matthew (Matt. iii. 3), 
of John the Baptist, when he says, " This is he that was 
spoken of by the prophet Esaias," and the word of the 
" voice from heaven " which said, " This is My beloved 
Son " (Matt. iii. 17). Tha"t the woman was a sinner 
Simon knew well ; and would not Jesus know it too, if 
He were a prophet ? Doubtless He would ; but as 


Simon marks no sign of disapproval upon the face of 
Jesus, the enigmatical "if" grows larger in his mind, 
and he begins to think that Jesus has scarcely the pre- 
science the power of seeing through things that a 
true prophet would have. Simon's reasoning was right, 
but his facts were wrong. He imagined that Jesus did 
not know " who and what manner of woman " this was ; 
whereas Jesus knew more than he, for He knew not only 
the past of shame, but a present of forgiveness and hope. 
And what did the tears and the ointment mean, that 
Jesus should receive them so readily, and that He should 
speak of them so approvingly? The parable Jesus 
spoke to Simon will explain it. " Simon, I have some- 
what to say unto thee," said Jesus, answering his 
thoughts for He had heard them by words. And 
falling naturally into the parabolic form of speech as 
He did when He wanted to make His meaning more 
startling and impressive He said, li A certain money- 
lender had two debtors: the one owed five hundred 
pence, and the other fifty. When they had not where- 
with to pay, he forgave them both. Which of them 
therefore will love him most ? " A question to which 
Simon could promptly answer, " He, I suppose, to 
whom he forgave the most." It is clear, then, what- 
ever others might see in the woman's deed, that Jesus 
read in it the expression of her love, and that He 
accepted it as such ; the tears and outpoured ointment 
were the broken utterances of an affection which was 
too deep for words. But if her offering as it certainly 
was was the gift of love, how shall we explain her 
tears ? for love, in the presence of the beloved, does 
not weep so passionately, indeed does not weep at all, 
except, it may be, tears of joy, or tears of a mutual 
sorrow. In this way : As the wind blows landward 

vii. 36-50] THE ANOINTING OF THE FEET. 217 

from the sea, the mountain ranges cool the clouds, and 
cause them to unlock their treasures, in the fertile and 
refreshing rains; so in the heart of this "sinner" a 
cloud of recollections is blown up suddenly from her 
dark past ; the memories -of her shame even though 
that shame be now forgiven sweep across her soul 
with resistless force, for penitence does not end when 
forgiveness is assured; and as she finds herself in 
the presence of Infinite Purity, what wonder that the 
heart's great deeps are broken up, and that the wild 
storm of conflicting emotions within should find relief 
in a rain of tears ? Tears of penitence they doubtless 
were, bitter with the sorrow and the shame of years 
of guilt ; but they were tears of gratitude and holy love 
as well, all suffused and brightened by the touch of 
mercy and the light of hope. And so the passionate 
weeping was no acted grief, no hysterical tempest ; it 
was the perfectly natural accompaniment of profound 
emotion, that storm of mingled but diverse elements 
which now swept through her soul. Her tears, like 
the dew-drops that hang upon leaf 'and flower, were 
wrought in the darkness, fashioned by the Night, and 
at the same time they were the jewels that graced the 
robe of a new dawn, the dawn of a better, a purer 

But how came this new affection within her heart, 
an affection so deep that it must have tears and anoint- 
ings for its expression this new affection, which has 
become a pure and holy passion, and which breaks 
through conventional bonds, as it has broken through 
the old habits, the ill usages of a life ? Jesus Himself 
traces for us this affection to its source. He tells us 
for the parable is all meaningless unless we recognize 
in the five-hundred-pence debtor the sinning woman 


that her great love grows out of her great forgiveness, 
a past forgiveness too, for Jesus speaks of the change 
as already accomplished : " Her sins, which were many, 
are (have been) forgiven/' And here we touch an un- 
written chapter of the Divine life; for as the woman's 
love flows up around Jesus, casting its treasures at 
His feet, so the forgiveness must first have come 
from Jesus. His voice it must have been which said, 
" Let there be light," and which turned the chaos of 
her dark soul into another Paradise. At any rate, she 
thinks she owes to Him her all. Her new creation, 
with its deliverance from the tyrannous past ; her new 
joys and hopes, the spring-blossom of a new and 
heavenly existence; the conscious purity which has 
now taken the plate of lust she owes all to the word 
and power of Jesus. But when this change took place, 
or when, in the great transit, this Venus of the moral 
firmament passed across the disc of the Sun, we do not 
know. St. John inserts in his story one little incident, 
which is like a piece of mosaic dropped out from the 
Gospels of the Synoptists, of a woman who was taken 
in her sin and brought to Jesus. And when the hands 
of her accusers were not clean enough to cast the first 
stone, but they shrank one by one out of sight, self- 
condemned, Jesus bade the penitent one to u go in 
peace, and sin no more." * Are the two characters 
identical? and does the forgiven one, dismissed into 
peace, now return to bring to her Saviour her offer- 
ing of gratitude and love ? We can only say that such 
an identification is at least possible, and more so far 
than the improbable identification of tradition, which 

* The narrative is of doubtful authenticity ; but even should it be 
proved to be a postscript by some later scribe, it would still point 
to a tradition, which, as Stier says, was " well founded and -genuine," 

vii. 36-50.] THE ANOINTING OF THE FEET. 219 

confounds this nameless " sinner " with Mary Mag- 
dalene, which is an assumption perfectly baseless and 
most unlikely. 

And so in this erring one, who now puts her crown 
of fragrance upon the feet of Jesus, since she is un- 
worthy to put it upon His head, we see a penitent 
and forgiven soul. Somewhere Jesus found her, out 
on the forbidden paths, the paths of sin, which, steep 
and slippery, lead down to death ; His look arrested her, 
for it cast within her heart the light of a new hope ; 
His presence, which was the embodiment of a purity 
infinite and absolute, shot through her soul the deep 
consciousness and conviction of her guilt ; and doubt- 
less upon her ears had fallen the words of the great 
absolution and the Divine benediction, " Thy sins are 
all forgiven ; go in peace," words which to her made 
all things new a new heart within, and a new earth 
around. And now, Degenerate and restored, the sad 
past forgiven, all the currents of her thought and life 
reversed, the love of sin turned into a perfect loathing, 
her language, spoken in tears, kisses, and fragrant 
nard, is the language of the Psalmist, " O Lord, I will 
praise Thee ; for though Thou wast angry with me, 
Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortedst 
me." It was the Magnificat of a forgiven and a loving 

Simon had watched the woman's [actions in silence, 
though in evident displeasure. He would have resented 
her touch, and have forbade even her presence ; but 
found under his roof, she became in a certain sense 
a guest, shielded by the hospitable courtesies of Eastern 
life. -But if he said nothing, he thought much, and his 
thoughts were hard and bitter. He looked upon the 
woman as a moral leper, an outcast. There was defile- 


ment in her touch, and he would have shaken it off 
from him as if it were a viper, fit only to be cast into 
the fire of a burning indignation. Now Jesus must 
teach him a lesson, and throw his thoughts back upon 
himself. And first He teaches him that there is for- 
giveness for sin, even the sin of uncleanness ; and 
in this we see the bringing in of a better hope. The 
Law said, "The soul that sinneth, it shall surely die;" 
it shall be cut off from the people of Israel. The Law 
had but one voice for the adulterer and adulteress, 
the voice which was the knell of a sharp and fearful 
doom, without reprieve or mercy of any kind. It cast 
upon them the deadly rain of stones, as if it would 
hurl a whole Sinai upon them. But Jesus comes to 
man with a message of mercy and of hope. He pro- 
claims a deliverance from the sin, and a pardon for the 
sinner ; nay, He offers Himself, as at once the Forgiver 
of sin and the Saviour from sin. Let Him but see 
it repented of ; let Him but see the tears of penitence, 
or hear the sighs of a broken and contrite heart, and 
He steps forward at once to deliver and to save. The 
Valley of Achor, where the Law sets up its memorial of 
shame, Jesus turns into a door of hope. He speaks 
life where the Law spoke death ; He offers hope where 
the Law gave but despair ; and where exacting Law 
gave pains and fearful punishment only, the Mediator 
of the New Covenant, to the penitent though erring 
ones, spoke pardon and peace, even the perfect peace/ 
the eternal peace. 

And Jesus teaches Simon another lesson. He teaches 
him to judge himself, and not either by his own fictitious 
standard, by the Pharisaic table of excellence, but by 
the Divine standard. Holding up as a mirror the 
example of the woman, Jesus gives to Simon a portrait 


of his own self, as seen in the heavenly light, all 
shrunken and dwarfed, the large " I " of Pharisaic 
complacency becoming, in comparison, small indeed. 
Turning to the woman, He said unto Simon, "Seest 
thou this woman ? " (And Simon had not seen her ; 
he had only seen her shadow, the shadow of her sinful 
past). {S I entered into thine house ; thou gavest Me no 
water for My feet : but she hath wetted My feet with 
her tears, and wiped them with her hair. Thou gavest 
Me no kiss : but she, since the time I came in, hath 
not ceased to kiss My feet My head with oil thou 
didst not anoint : but she hath anointed My feet with 
ointment." It is a problem of the pronouns, in which 
the " I " being given, it is desired to find the relative 
values of "thou" and "she." And how beautifully 
does Jesus work it out, according to the rules of Divine 
proportions ! With what antithetical skill does He 
make His comparison, or rather His contrast ! " Thou 
gavest me no water for My feet ; she hath wetted My 
feet with her tears, and wiped them with her hair. 
Thou gavest me no kiss : she hath not ceased to kiss my 
feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint : she hath 
anointed My feet with ointment" 

And so Jesus sets over against the omissions of 
Simon the loving and lavish attentions of the woman ; 
and while reproving him, not for a lack of civility, but 
for a want of heartiness in his reception of Himself, 
He shows how deep and full run the currents of her 
affection, breaking through the banks and bounds of 
conventionality in their sweet overflow, while as yet 
the currents of his love were intermittent, shallow, and 
somewhat cold. He does not denounce this Simon as 
having no part or lot in this matter. No ; He even 
credits him with a little love, as He speaks of him as a 


pardoned, justified soul. And it was true. The heart 
of Simon had been drawn toward Jesus, and in the 
urgent invitation and these proffered hospitalities we 
can discern a nascent affection. His love is yet but in 
the bud. It is there, a thing of life ; but it is confined, 
constrained, and lacking the sweetness of the ripened 
and opened flower. Jesus does not cut off the budding 
affection, and cast it out amongst the withered and dead 
things, but sprinkling it with the dew of His speech, 
and throwing upon it the sunshine of His approving 
look, He leaves it to develop, ripening into an after- 
harvest of fragrance and of beauty. And why was 
Simon's love more feeble and immature than that of the 
woman ? First, because he did not see so much in 
Jesus as she did. He was yet stumbling over the " if," 
with some lingering doubts as to whether He were 
"the prophet;" to her He is more than a " prophet/' 
even her Lord and her Saviour, covering her past 
with a mantle of mercy, and opening within her heart 
a heaven. Then, too, Simon's forgiveness was not so 
great as hers. Not that any forgiveness can be less 
than entire ; for when Heaven saves it is not a salva- 
tion by instalments certain sins remitted, while others 
are held back uncancelled. But Simon's views of sin 
were not so sharp and vivid as were those of the 
woman. The atmosphere of Phariseeism in its moral 
aspects was hazy ; it magnified human virtues, and 
created all sorts of illusive mirages of self-righteousness 
and reputed holiness, and doubtless Simon's vision 
had been impaired by the refracting atmosphere of his 
creed. The greatness of our salvation is ever measured 
by the greatness of our danger and our guilt. The 
heavier the burden and weight of condemnation, the 
deeper is the peace and the higher are the ecstasies of 

vii-36-5 -] THE ANOINTING OF THE FEET. 223 

joy when that condemnation is removed. Shall we say, 
then, " We must sin more, that love may more abound " ? 
Nay, we need not, we must not ; for as Godet says, 
" What is wanting to the best of us, in order to love 
much, is not sin, but the knowledge of it" And this 
deeper knowledge of sin, the more vivid realization of 
its guilt, its virulence, its all-pervasiveness, comes 
just in proportion as we approach Christ. Standing 
close up to the cross, feeling the mortal agonies of 
Him whose death was necessary as sin's atonement, 
in that vivid light of redeeming love even the strict 
moralist, the Pharisee of the Pharisees, could speak of 
himself as the " chief" of sinners. 

The lesson was over, and Jesus dismissed the woman 
who, with her empty alabaster flask, had lingered at 
the feast, and who had heard all the conversation 
with the double assurance of pardon : " Thy sins are 
forgiven ; thy faith hath saved thee ; go in peace." 
And such is the Divine order everywhere and always 
Faith, Love, Peace. Faith is the procuring cause, or 
the condition of salvation ; love and peace are its after- 
fruits ; for without faith, love would be only fear, and 
peace itself would be unrest. 

She went in peace, " the peace of God, which passeth 
all understanding ; " but she left behind her the music 
of her tears and the sweet fragrance of her deed, a 
fragrance and a music which have filled the whole 
world, and which, floating across the valley of death, 
will pass up into heaven itself ! 

There was still one little whisper of murmuring, or 

^questioning rather ; for the guests were startled by the 

boldness of His words, and asked among themselves, 

" Who is this that even forgiveth sins ? " But it will 

be noticed that Simon himself is no longer among the 


questioners, the doubters. Jesus is to him " the Pro- 
phet," and more than a prophet, for who can forgive 
sins but God alone ? And though we hear no more 
of him or of his deeds, we may rest assured that 
his conquered heart was given without reserve to 
Jesus, and that he too learned to love with a true 
affection, even with the " perfect love," which " casteth 
out fear." 


LUKE viii. 1-18. 

IN a single parenthetical sentence our Evangelist 
indicates a marked change in the mode of the 
.Divine ministry. Hitherto "His own city," Capernaum, 
has been a sort of centre, from which the lines of light 
and blessing have radiated. Now, however, He leaves 
Capernaum, and makes a circuit through the province 
of Galilee, going through its cities and villages in a 
systematic, and as the verb would imply, a leisurely 
way, preaching the "good tidings of the kingdom of 
God." Though no mention is made of them, we are 
not to suppose that miracles were suspended ; but 
evidently they were set in the background, as secondary 
things, the by-plays or " asides " of the Divine Teacher, 
who now is intent upon delivering His message, the 
last message, too, that they would hear from Him. 
Accompanying Him, and forming an imposing demon- 
stration, were His twelve disciples, together with 
" many " women, who ministered unto them of their 
substance, among whom were three prominent ones, 
probably persons of position and influence -Mary of 
Magdala, Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, 
and Susanna, who had been healed by Jesus of 
" evil spirits and infirmities " which last word, in New 
Testament language, is a synonym for physical weak- 



ness and disorder. Of the particulars and results of 
this mission we know nothing, unless we may see, 
in the " great multitude " which followed and thronged 
Jesus on His return, the harvest reaped from the 
Galilean hills. Our Evangelist, at any rate, links them 
together, as if the "great multitude" which now lines 
the shore was, in part at least, the cloud of eager souls 
which had been caught up and borne along on His 
fervid speech, as the echoes of the kingdom went 
resounding among the hills and vales of Galilee. 

Returning to Capernaum, whither the crowds follow 
Him, every city sending its contingent of curious or 
conquered souls, Jesus, as St. Matthew and St. Mark 
inform us, leaves the house, and seeks the open stretch 
of shore, where from a boat probably the familiar boat 
of Simon He addresses the multitudes, adopting now, 
as His favourite mode of speech, the amplified parable. 
It is probable that He had observed on the part of 
His disciples an undue elation of spirit. Reading the 
crowds numerically, and not discerning the different 
motives which had brought them together, their eyes 
deceived them. They imagined that these eager multi- 
tudes were but a wave-sheaf of the harvest already 
ripe, which only waited their gathering-in. But it is 
not so; and Jesus sifts and winnows His audience, 
to show His disciples that the apparent is not always 
the real, and that between the hearers of the word 
and the doers there will ever be a wide margin of 
disappointment and comparative failure. The harvest, 
in God's husbandry, as in man's, does not depend 
altogether upon the quality of the seed or the faithful- 
ness of the sower, but upon the nature of th^ soil on 
which it falls. 

As the sower went forth to sow his seed, "some fell 

viii. 1-18.] THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER. 227 

by the way-side, and it was trodden under-foot, and the 
birds of the heaven devoured it." In his carefulness 
to cover all his ground, the sower had gone close up 
to the boundary, and some of the seed had fallen on 
the edge of the bare and trampled path, where it lay 
homeless and exposed. It was in contact with the 
earth, but it was a mechanical, and not a vital touch. 
There was no correspondence, no communion between 
them. Instead of welcoming and nourishing the seed, 
it held it aloof, in a cold, repelling way. Had the soil 
been sympathetic and receptive, it held within itself 
all the elements of growth. Touched by the subtle 
life that was hidden within the seed, the dead earth 
itself had lived, growing up into blades of promise, 
and from the full ear throwing itself forward into the 
future years. But the earth was hard and unreceptive ; 
its possibilities of blessing were locked up and buried 
beneath a crust of trampled soil that was callous and 
unresponsive as the rock itself. And so the seed lay 
unwelcomed and alone, and the life which the warm 
touch of earth would have loosened and set free 
remained within its husk as a dead thing, without voice 
or hearing. There was nothing else for it but to be 
ground into dust by the passing foot or to be picked 
up by the foraging birds. 

The parable was at once a prophecy and an experi- 
ence. Forming a part of the crowd which surrounded 
Jesus was an outer ring of hearers who came but to 
criticize and to cavil. They had no desire to be 
taught at any rate by such a teacher. They were 
themselves the " knowing ones/' the learned, and they 
looked with suspicion and ill-concealed scorn upon 
the youthful Nazarene. Turning upon the Speaker 
a cold, questioning glance, or exchanging signals with 


one another, they were evidently hostile to Jesus, 
listening, it is true, but with a feline alertness, hoping 
to entrap the sweet Singer in His speech. Upon 
these, and such as these, the word of God, even when 
spoken by the Divine Son, made no impression. It 
was a speaking to the rocks, with no other result than 
the awaking of a few echoes of mockery and banter. 

The experience is still true. Among those who 
frequent the house of God are many whose worship is 
a cold, conventional thing. Drawn thither by custom, 
by the social instinct, or by the love of change, they 
pass within the gates of the Lord's house, ostensibly 
to worship. But they are insincere, indifferent ; they 
bring their body, and deposit it in the accustomed pew, 
but they might as well have put there a bag of ashes 
or an automaton of brass. Their mind is not here, 
and the cold, stolid features, unlighted by any passing 
gleam, tell too surely of a vacancy or vagrancy of 
thought. And even while the lips are throwing off 
mechanically Jubilates and Te Deums their heart is 
"far from Me," chasing some phantom "will o' the 
wisp," or dreaming their dreams of pleasure, gain, and 
ease. The worship of God they themselves would 
call it, but God does not recognize it. He calls their 
prayers a weariness, their incense an abomination. 
Theirs is but a worship of Self, as, setting up their 
image of clay, they summon earth's musicians to play 
their sweet airs about it. God, with them, is set back, 
ignored, proscribed. The personal "I" is writ so 
large, and is so all-pervasive, that there is no room 
for the I AM. Living for earth, all the fibres of their 
being growing downwards towards it, heaven is not 
even a cloud drifting across their distant vision ; it is 
an empty space, a vacancy. To the voices of earth 

viii. i-i8J THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER. 229 

their ears are keenly sensitive ; its very whispers thrill 
them with new excitements ; but to the voices ot 
Heaven they are deaf; the still, small voice is all 
unheard, and even the thunders of God are so muffled 
as to be unrecognized and scarcely audible. And so 
the word of God falls upon their ears in vain. It drops 
upon a soil that is impervious and antipathetic, a 
heart which knows no penitence, and a life whose 
fancied goodness has no room for mercy, or which finds 
such complete satisfaction in the gains of unrighteous- 
ness or the pleasures of sin that it is purposely and 
persistently deaf to all higher, holier voices. Ulysses 
filled his ears with wax, lest he should yield himself 
up to the enchantments of the sirens. The fable is 
true, even when read in reversed lines ; for when 
Virtue, Purity, and Faith invite men to their resting- 
place, calling them to the Islands of the Blessed, and to 
the Paradise of God, they charm in vain. Deafening 
their ears, and not deigning to give a passing thought 
to the higher call, men drift past the heaven which 
might have been theirs, until these holier voices are 
silenced by the awful distance. 

That the word of God is inoperative here is through 
no fault, either of the seed or of the sower. That 
word is still "quick and powerful," but it is sterile, 
because it finds nothing on which it may grow. It is 
not " understood," as Jesus Himself explains. It falls 
upon the outward ear alone, and there only as unmean- 
ing sound, like the accents of some unknown tongue. 
And so the wicked one easily takes away the word from 
their heart ; for, as the preposition itself implies, that 
word had not fallen into the heart; it was lying on it in a 
superficial way, like the seed cast upon the trampled path. 

Is there, then, no hope for these way-side hearers ? 


and sparing our strength and toil, shall we leave them 
for soils more promising ? By no means. The fallow 
ground may be broken up ; the ploughshare can loosen 
the hardened, unproductive earth. Pulverized by the 
teeth of the harrow or the teeth of the frost, the barren 
track itself disappears ; it passes up into the advanced 
classes, giving back the seed with which it is now 
entrusted, with a thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold increase. 
And this is true in the higher husbandry, in which 
we are permitted to be " God's fellow- workers." The 
heart which to-day is indifferent or repellent, to- 
morrow, chastened by sickness or torn by the plough- 
share of some keen grief, may hail with eagerness the 
message it rejected and even scorned before. Amid 
the penury and shame of the far country, the father's 
house, from which he had wantonly turned, now comes 
to the prodigal like a sweet dream, and even its bread 
has all the aroma 1 and sweetness of ambrosial food. 
No matter how disappointing the soil, we are to do 
our duty, which is to " sow beside all waters ; " nor 
should any calculations of imaginary productiveness 
make us slack our hand or cast away our hope. When 
the Spirit is poured out from on high, even " the 
wilderness becomes as a fruitful field," and death itself 
becomes instinct with life. * 

" And other fell on the rock ; and as soon as it grew 
it withered away, because it had no moisture." Here 
is a second quality of soil. It is not, however, a soil 
that is weakened by an intermixture of gravel or of 
stones, but rather a soil that is thinly spread upon the 
rock. It is good soil as far as it goes, but it is shallow. 
It receives the seed gladly, as if that were its one 
mission, as indeed it is; it gives the seed a hiding- 
place, throwing over it a mantle of earth, so that the 

viii. 1-18.] THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER. 231 

birds shall not devour it. It lays its warm touch upon 
the enveloping husk, as the Master once laid His 
finger upon the bier, and to the imprisoned life which 
was within it said, "Arise and multiply. Pass up 
into the sunlight, and give God's children bread." And 
the seed responds, obeys, The emerging life throws 
out its two wings one downwards, as its roots clasp 
the soil ; one upwards, as the blade, pushing the clods 
aside, makes for the light and the heavens that are 
above it. " Surely/' we should say, if we read the 
future from the present merely, "the hundredfold is 
here. Pull down your barns and build greater, for 
never was seed received more kindly, never were the be- 
ginnings of life more auspicious, and never was promise 
so great." Ah that the promise should so soon be a 
disappointment, and the forecast be so soon belied ! The 
soil has no depth. It is simply a thin covering spread 
over the rock. It offers no room for growth. The 
life it nourishes can be nothing more than an ephemeral 
life, which owns but a to-day, whose "to-morrow" will 
be in the oven of a burning heat. The growth is entirely 
superficial, for its roots come directly to the hard, 
impenetrable rock, which, yielding no support, *but cut- 
ting off all supplies from the unseen reservoirs beneath, 
turns back the incipient life all starved and shrunken. 
The result is a sudden withering and decay. A found- 
ling, left, not by some iron gate which the touch of 
mercy might open, but by a dead wall of cold, unrespon- 
sive stone, the plant throws up its arms into the air, 
in its vain struggle fpr life, and then wilts and droops, 
lying at last, a dead and shrivelled thing, on the dry 
bosom of the earth which had given it its untimely birth. 
Such, says Jesus, are many who hear the word. 
Unlike those by the way-side, these do not reject it. 


They listen, bending toward that word with attentive 
ears and eager hearts. Nay, they receive it with joy ; 
it strikes upon their soul with the music of a new 
evangel. But the work is not thorough ; it is super- 
ficial, external. They "have no root" in a deep and 
settled conviction, only a green blade of profession 
and of mock promise, and when the testing-time comes, 
as it comes to all, " the time of temptation/' they fall 
away, or they " stand off/' as the verb might be literally 

In this second class we must place a large proportion 
of those who heard and who followed Jesus. There 
was something attractive about His manner and about 
His message. Again and again we read how they 
" pressed upon Him " to hear His words, the multitude 
hanging on His lips as the bees will cluster upon a 
honeyed leaf. Thousands upon thousands thus came 
within the spell of His voice, now wondering at His 
gracious words, and now stunned with astonishment, 
as they marked the authority with which He spoke, 
the compressed thunder that was in His tones. But 
in how many cases are we forced to admit the interest 
to be but momentary ! It was with many shall we 
say with most ? merely a passing excitement, the 
effervescence of personal contact. The words of Jesus 
came " as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant 
voice," and for the moment the hearts of the multitudes 
were set vibrating in responsive harmonies. But the 
music ceased when the Singer was absent. The impres- 
sions were not permanent, and even the emotions 
had soon passed away, almost from memory. St. John 
speaks of one sifting in Galilee when "many of His 
disciples went back, and walked no more with Him " 
(vi. 66), showing that with them at least it was an 

viii.i-i8.] THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER. 233 

attach-ment rather than an attachment that bound them 
to Himself. The bond of union was the hope of some 
personal gain, rather than the bond of a pure and .deep 
affection. And so directly He speaks of His approach- 
ing death, of His "flesh and' blood" which He shall 
give them to eat and to drink, like an icy breath from 
the north, those words chill their devotion, turning their 
zeal and ardour into a cold indifference, if not into an 
open hostility. And this same winnowing of Galilee 
is repeated in Judaea. We read of multitudes who 
escorted Jesus down the Mount of Olives, strewing His 
path with garments, giving Him a royal welcome to the 
"city of the Great King." But how soon a change 
" came o'er the spirit of their dream " ! how soon 
the hosannahs died away ! As a hawk in the sky will 
still in a moment the warbling of the birds, so the 
uplifted cross threw its cold shadow upon their hearts, 
drowning the brief hosannahs in a strange silence. 
The cross was the fan in the Master's hand, with 
which He "throughly purged His floor/' separating the 
true from the false. It blew away into the deep Valley 
of Oblivion the chaff, the dead superficialities, the barren 
yawns, leaving as the residuum of the sifted multitudes 
a mere handful of a hundred and twenty names. 

These pro tern, believers are indigenous to every soil. 
There never is a great movement afloat philanthropic, 
political or spiritual but numberless smaller craft are 
lifted up on its swell. For a moment they seem instinct 
with life, but having no propelling power in themselves, 
they drop behind, soon to be embedded in the mire. 
And especially is this true in the region of spiritual 
dynamics. In all so-called " revivals " of religion, when 
the Church rejoices in a deepened and quickened life, 
when a cooling zeal has been rewarmed at the heavenly 


fires, and converts are multiplied, in the accessions 
which follow almost invariably will be found a propor- 
tion of what we may call u casuals." We cannot say 
they are counterfeits, for the work, as far as it goes, 
seems real, and the change, both in their thought and 
life, is clearly marked. But they are unstable souls, 
prone to drifting, their direction given in the main by 
the set of the current in which they happen to be. And 
so when they reach the point which all must reach 
sooner or later where two seas meet, the cross current 
of enticement and temptation bears hard upon them, and 
they make shipwreck of faith. Others, again, are led 
by impulse. Religion with them is mainly a matter of 
feeling. Overlooking the fact that the emotions are 
easily stirred, that they respond to the passing breath 
just as the sea ripples to the breeze, they substitute 
emotion for conviction, feeling for faith. But these have 
no foundation, no root, no independent life, and when 
the excitements on which they feed are withdrawn, 
when the emotion subsides, the high tide of fervour 
falling back to its mean sea-level, they lose heart and 
hope. They are even ready to pity themselves as the 
objects of an illusion. But the illusion was one of their 
own making. They set the pleasant before the right, 
delight before duty, comfort before Christ, and instead 
of finding their heaven in doing the will of God, no 
matter what the emotions, they sought their heaven in 
their own personal happiness, and so they missed both. 
" They endure for a while." And of how many are 
these words true ! Verily we must not count our fruits 
from the blossoms of spring, nor must we reckon our 
harvest in that easy, f hopeful way of multiplying each 
seed, or even each blade, by the hundredfold, for the 
blade may be only a short-lived blade and nothing more. 

viii. 1-18.] THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER. 235 

" And other fell amidst the thorns ; and the thorns 
grew with it, and choked it." Here is a third quality 
of soil in the ascending series. In the first, the trampled 
path, life was not possible ; the seed could find not the 
least response. In the second there was life. The 
thinly sprinkled soil gave the seed a home, a rooting ; 
but lacking depth of earth and the necessary moisture, 
the life was precarious, ephemeral. It died away in the 
blade, and never reached its fruitage. Now, however, 
we have a deeper, richer soil, with an abundance of 
vitality, one capable of sustaining an exuberant life. 
But it is not clean ; it is already thickly sown with 
thorns, arid the two growths running up side by side, 
the hardier gets the mastery. And though the corn- 
life struggles up into the ear, bearing a sort of fruit, it 
is a grain that is dwarfed and shrivelled, a mere husk 
and shell, which no leaven can transmute into bread. 
It brings forth fruit, as the exposition of the parable 
indicates, but it has not strength to complete its task ; 
it does not ripen it, bringing the fruit "to perfection." 

Such, says Jesus, is another and a large class of 
hearers. They are naturally capable of doing great 
things. Possessing strong wills, and a large amount 
of energy, they are just the lives to be fruitful, impres- 
sing themselves upon others, and so throwing their 
manifold influence down into the future. But they do 
not, and for the simple reason that they do not give to 
the word a whole heart. Their attentions and energies 
are divided. Instead of seeking " first the kingdom of 
God," making that the supreme quest of life, it is with 
them but one of many things to be desired and sought. 
Chief among the hindrances to a perfected growth and 
fruitfulness, Jesus mentions three; namely, cares, riches, 
and pleasures. By the " cares of life " we must under- 


stand interpreting the word by its related word in 
Matthew vi. 34 the anxieties of life. It is the anxious 
thought, mainly about the " to-morrow," which presses 
upon the 1 heart as a sore and constant burden. It is 
the fearfulness and unrest of soul which gloom the 
spirit and shroud the life, making the Divine peace 
itself a fret and worry. And how many Christians find 
this to be the normal experience ! They love God, they 
seek to serve Him ; but they are weighted and weary. 
Instead of having the hopeful, buoyant spirit which 
rises to the crest of passing waves, it is a heart de- 
pressed and sad, living in the deeps. And so the 
brightness of their life is dimmed ; they walk- not "in 
the light, as He is in the light/' but beneath a sky fre- 
quently overcast, their days bringing only " a little 
glooming light, much like a shade." And so their 
spiritual life is stunted, their usefulness impaired. In- 
stead of having a heart,; " at leisure from itself," they 
are engrossed with their own unsatisfactory experiences. 
Instead of looking upwards to the heavens which are 
their own, or outwards upon the crying needs of earth, 
they look inward with frequent and morbid introspec- 
tion ; and instead of lending a hand to the fallen, that 
a brotherly touch might help them, to rise, their hands 
find full employment in steadying the world, or worlds, 
of care which, Atlas-like, they are doomed to carry. 
Self-doomed, we should have said ; for the Divine Voice 
invites us to cast " all our anxiety upon Him," assuring 
us that He careth for us, an assurance and an invitation 
which make our anxieties, the fret and fever of life, 
altogether superfluous. 

Exactly the same effect of making the spiritual life 
incomplete, and so unproductive, is caused by riches 
and pleasures, or, as we might render the expression, 


by the pursuit after riches or after pleasure. Not that 
the Scriptures condemn wealth in itself. It is, per se, of 
a neutral character, whether a blessing or a bane de- 
pends on how it is earned and how it is held. Nor do 
the Scriptures condemn legitimate modes and measures 
of business ; they condemn waste and indolence, but 
they commend industry, diligence, thrift. But the evil 
is in making wealth the chief aim of life. It is decep- 
tive, promising satisfaction which it never gives, creating 
a thirst which it is powerless to slake, until the desire, 
ever more greedy and clamorous, grows into a a love 
of money," a pure worship of Mammon. Religion and 
business may well go together, for God has joined them 
in one. Each keeping its proper place, religion first 
and most, and business a far-off second, together they 
are the centrifugal and centripetal forces that keep the 
life revolving steadily around its Divine centre. But 
let the positions be reversed ; let business be the first, 
chief thought, let religion sink down to some second 
or third place, and the life swings farther and farther 
from its pivotal centre, into wildernesses of dearth 
and cold. To give due thought to earthly things 
is right ; nay, we may give all diligence to make our 
earthly, as well as our heavenly calling sure; but when 
business gets imperious in its demands, swallowing up 
all our thought and energy, leaving no time for spiritual 
exercises or for personal service for Christ, then the 
religious life declines. Crowded back into the chance 
corners, with nothing left it but the brief interstices of 
a busy life, religion can do little more than maintain 
a profession ; its helpfulness is, in the main, remitted 
to the past, and its fruitfulness is postponed to that 
uncertain nowhere of the Greek calends. 

The same is true with regard to the pleasures of life. 


The word " pleasure " is a somewhat infrequent word 
in the New Testament, and generally it is used of the 
lower, sensual pleasures, We are not obliged, how- 
exrer, to give the word its lowest meaning ; indeed, the 
analogy of the parable would scarcely allow such an 
interpretation. Sinful pleasure would not check growth ; 
it would simply prevent it, making a spiritual life 
impossible. We must therefore interpret the " plea- 
sures " which retard the upward growth, and render it 
infertile, as the lawful pleasures of life, such as the 
delights of the eye and ear, the gratification of the 
tastes, the enjoyments of domestic or social life. Per- 
fectly innocent and pure in themselves, purposely 
designed for our enjoyment, as St. Paul plainly inti- 
mates (i Tim. vi. 17), they are pleasures which we have 
no right to treat with the stoic's disdain, nor with the 
ascetic's aversion. But the snare is in permitting these 
desires to step out of their proper place, in allowing 
them to have a controlling influence. As servants their 
ministry is helpful and benign ; but if we make them 
" lords/' then, like " the ill uses of a life," we find it 
difficult to put them down ; they rather put us down, 
making us their thrall. To please God should be the 
one absorbing pursuit and passion of life, and wholly 
bent on this, if other pure enjoyments come in our way 
we may receive them thankfully. But if we make our 
personal gratification the aim, if our thoughts and plans 
are set on this rather than upon the pleasing of God, 
then our spiritual life is enfeebled and stifled, and the 
fruit we should bear shrivels up into chaff. Then we 
become selfish and self-willed, and the pure pleasures 
of life, which like Vestal Virgins minister yyithin the 
temple of God, leading us ever to Him, turn round 
to burn perpetual incense before our enlarged and 

viii. 1-18.] THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER. 239 

exalted Self. He who stops to confer with flesh 
and blood, who is ever consulting his own likes and 
leanings, can never be an apostle to others. 

"And other fell into the good ground, and grew, 
and brought forth fruit a hundredfold." Here is the 
highest quality of soil. Not hard, like the trampled 
path, nor shallow, like the covering of the rock, not 
preoccupied with the roots of other growths, this is 
mellow, deep, clean, and rich. The seed falls, not " by," 
or "in," or "among," but "into" it, while seed and 
soil together grow up in an affluence of life, and passing 
through the blade-age and the earing, it ripens into a 
harvest of a hundredfold. Such, says Jesus, are they 
who, in an honest and good heart, having heard the 
word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience. 
Here, then, we reach the germ of the parable, the secret 
of fruitfulness, The one difference between the saint 
and the sinner, between the hundredfold hearer and 
him whose life is spent in throwing out promises of 
a harvest which never ripens, is their different attitude 
towards the word of God. In the one case that word 
is rejected altogether, or it is a concept of the mind 
alone, an aurora of the Arctic night, distant and cold, 
which some mistake for the dawn of a new day. In 
the other the word passes through the mind into the 
deepest heart ; it conquers and rules the whole being ; 
it becomes a part of one's very self, the soul of the soul. 
" Thy word have I hid in my heart/' said the Psalmist, 
and he who puts the Divine word there, back of all 
earthly and selfish voices, letting that Divine Voice fill 
up that most sacred temple of the heart, will make his 
outer life both beautiful and fruitful. He will walk the 
earth as one of God's seers, ever beholding Him who 
is invisible, speaking by life or lips in heavenly tones, 


and by his own steadfast, upward gaze lifting the 
hearts and thoughts of men " above the world's uncer- 
tain haze." Such is the Divine law of life ; the measure 
of our faith is the measure of our fruitfulness. If we 
but half believe in the promises of God or in the 
eternal realities, then the sinews of our soul are 
houghed, and there comes over us the sad paralysis 
of doubt. How can we bring forth fruit except we 
abide in Him ? and how can we abide in Him but by 
letting His words abide in us ? But having His words 
abiding in us, then His peace, His joy, His life are ours, 
and we, who without Him are poor, dead things, now 
become strong in His infinite strength, and fruitful 
with a Divine fruitfulness; and to our lives, which 
were all barren and dead, will men come for the words 
that "help and heal," while the Master Himself gathers 
from them His thirty, sixty, or hundredfold, the fruitage 
of a whole-hearted, patient faith. 

< Let us take heed, therefore, how we hear, for on the 
|haracter of the 'hearing depends the character of the 
life. Nor is the truth given us for ourselves alone ; it 
is given that it may become incarnate in us, so that 
others may see and feel the truth that is in us, even as 
men cannot help seeing the light which is manifest. 

And so the parable closes with the account of the 
visit of His mother and brethren, who came, as St. 
Matthew informs us, " to take Him home ; " and when 
the message was passed on to Him that His mother 
and His brethren wished to see Him, this was His 
remarkable answer, claiming relationship with all 
whose hearts vibrate to the same " word : " " My 
mother and My brethren are those which hear the 
word of God, and DO IT." It is the secret of the 
Divine life on earth ; they hear, and they DO. 


IN considering the words of Jesus, if we may not be 
able to measure their depth or to scale their height, 
we can with absolute certainty discover their drift, and 
see in what direction they move, and we shall find 
that their orbit is an ellipse. Moving around the two 
centres, sin and salvation, they describe what is not a 
geometric figure, but a glorious reality, " the kingdom 
of God." It is not unlikely that the expression was one 
of the current phrases of the times, a golden casket, 
holding- within it the dream of a restored Hebraism ; 
for we find, without any collusion or rehearsal of parts, 
the Baptist making use of the identical words in his 
inaugural address, while it is certain the disciples 
themselves so misunderstood the thought of their 
Master as to refer His " kingdom " to that narrow 
realm of Hebrew sympathies and hopes. Nor did they 
see their error until, in the light of Pentecostal flames, 
their own dream disappeared, and the new kingdom, 
opening out like a receding sky, embraced a world 
within its folds. That Jesus adopted the phrase, liable 
to misconstruction as it was, and that He used it so 
repeatedly, making it the centre of so many parables 
and discourses, shows how completely the kingdom 
of God possessed both His mind and heart. Indeed, 



so accustomed were His thoughts and words to flow 
in this direction that even the Valley of Death, " lying 
darkly between " His two lives, could not alter their 
course, or turn His thoughts out of their familiar 
channel ; and as we find the Christ back of the cross 
and tomb, amid the resurrection glories, we hear Him 
speaking still of " the things pertaining to the kingdom 
of God." 

It will be observed that Jesus uses the J:wo expres- 
sions " the kingdom of God " and " the kingdom of 
heaven" interchangeably. But in what sense is it 
the " kingdom of heaven " ? Does it mean that the 
celestial realm will so far extend its bounds as to 
embrace our outlying and low-lying world ? Not exactly, 
for the conditions of the two realms are so diverse. 
The one is the perfected, the visible kingdom, where 
the throne is set, and the King Himself is manifest, 
its citizens, angels, heavenly intelligences, and saints 
now freed from the cumbering clay of mortality, and 
for ever safe from the solicitations of evil. This New 
Jerusalem does not come down to earth, except in the 
vision of the seer, as it were in a shadow. And yet 
the two kingdoms are in close correspondence, after all ; 
for what is the kingdom of God in heaven but His 
eternal rule over the spirits of the redeemed and of 
the unredeemed ? what are the harmonies of heaven 
but the harmonies of surrendered wills, as, without 
any hesitation or discord, they strike in with the Divine 
Will in absolute precision ? To this extent, then, at 
least, heaven may project itself upon earth ; the spirit? 
of men not yet made perfect may be in subjection tp 
the Supreme Spirit ; the separate wills of a redeemed 
humanity, striking in with the Divine Will, may swell 
the heavenly harmonies with their earthly music. 


And so Jesus speaks of this kingdom as being 
" within you." As if He said, " You are looking in 
the wrong direction. You expect the kingdom of God 
to be set up around you, with its visible symbols of flags 
and coins, on which is the image of some new Caesar. 
You are mistaken. The kingdom, like its King, is 
unseen ; it seeks, not countries, but consciences ; its 
realm is in the heart, in the great interior of the soul." 
And is not this the reason why it is called, with such 
emphatic repetition, "the kingdom/' as if it were, if 
not the only, at any rate the highest kingdom of God 
on earth? We speak of a kingdom of Nature, and 
who will know its secrets as He who was both Nature's 
child and Nature's Lord?' And how far-reaching a 
realm is that ! from the motes that swim in the air to 
the most distant stars, which themselves are but the 
gateway to the unseen Beyond! What forces are 
here, forces of chemical affinities and repulsions, of 
gravitation and of life ! What successions and trans- 
formations can Nature show! what infinite varieties 
of substance, form, and colour ! what a realm of 
harmony and peace, with no irruptions of discordant 
elements ! Surely one would think, if God has a 
kingdom upon earth, this kingdom of Nature is it. 
But no ; Jesus does not often refer to that, except as 
He makes Nature speak in His parables, or as He 
uses the sparrows, the grass, and the lilies as so many 
lenses through which our weak human vision may see 
God. The v kingdom of God on earth is as much 
higher than the kingdom of Nature as spirit is above 
matter, as love is more and greater than power. 

We said just now how completely the thought of 
" the kingdom " possessed the mind and heart of Jesus. 
We might go one step farther, and say how completely 


Jesus identified Himself with that kingdom. He puts 
Himself in its pivotal centre, with all possible natural- 
ness, and with an ease that assumption cannot feign 
He gathers up its royalties and draws them' around 
His own Person. He speaks of it as "My kingdom;" 
and this, not alone in familiar discourse with His 
disciples, but when face to face with the representative 
of earth's greatest power. Nor is the personal pronoun 
some chance word, used in a far-off, accommodated 
sense ; it is the crucial word of the sentence, under- 
scored and emphasized by a threefold repetition ; it is 
the word He will not strike out, nor recall, even to 
save Himself from the cross. He never speaks of the 
kingdom but even His enemies acknowledge the 
" authority" that rings in His tones, the authority 
of conscious power, as well as of perfect knowledge. 
When His ministry is drawing to a close He says to 
Peter, " I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom 
of heaven;" which language may be understood as 
the official designation of the Apostle Peter to a position 
of pre-eminence in the Church, as its first leader. But 
whatever it may mean, it shows that the keys of the 
kingdom are His ; He can bestow them on whom He 
will. The kingdom of heaven is not a realm in which 
authority and honours move upwards from below, the 
blossoming of " the people's will ; " it is an absolute 
monarchy, an autocracy, and Jesus Himself is here 
King supreme, His will swaying the lesser wills of 
men, and rearranging their positions, as the angel had 
foretold : "He shall reign over the house of David 
for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end." 
Gjygn Him of the Father itjsL(xxii. 29 ; i. 32), but the 
kingdom ^ His, not either as a metaphor, but really, 
absolutely, inalienably ; nor is there admittance within 


that kingdom but by Him who is the^Way, as He is 
the JLife. We enter into the kingdom, or the king- 
dom enters into us, as we find, and then crown the 
King, as we sanctify in our hearts " Christ as Lord" 
(i Pet. iii. 15). 

This brings us to the question of citizenship, the 
conditions and demands of the kingdom ; and here we 
see how far this new dynasty is removed from the 
kingdoms of this world. They deal with mankind in 
groups; they look at birth, not character; and their 
bounds are well defined by rivers, mountains, seas, or 
by accurately surveyed lines. The kingdom of heaven, 
on the other hand, dispenses with all space-limits, all 
physical configurations, and regards mankind as one 
group, a unity, a lapsed but a redeemed world. But 
while opening its gates and offering its privileges to all 
alike, irrespective of class or circumstance, it is most 
eclective in its requirements, and most rigid in the 
application of its test, its one test of character. Indeed, 
the laws of the heavenly kingdom are a complete 
reversal of the lines of worldly policy. Take, for 
instance, the two estimates of wealth, and see how 
different the position it occupies in the two societies. 
The world makes wealth its summum bonum; or if not 
exactly in itself the highest good, in commercial values 
it is equivalent to the highest good, which is position. 
Gold is all-powerful, the goal of man's vain ambitions, 
the panacea of earthly ill. Men chase it in hot, feverish 
haste, trampling upon each other in the mad scramble, 
and worshipping it in a blind idolatry. But where is 
wealth in the new kingdom ? The world's first be- 
comes the last. It has no purchasing-power here ; its 
golden key cannot open the least of these heavenly 
gates. Jesus sets it back, far back, in His estimate of 


the good. He speaks of it as if it were an encumbrance, 
a dead weight, that must be lifted, and that handicaps 
the heavenly athlete. " How hardly," said Jesus, when 
the rich ruler turned away "very sorrowful," "shall 
they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God !" 
(xviii, 24) ; and then, by way of illustration, He shows 
us the picture of the camel passing through the so- 
called "needle's eye" of an Eastern door. He does 
not say that such a thing is impossible, for the camel 
could pass through the "needle's eye," but it must first 
kneel down and be stripped of all its baggage, before it 
can pass the narrow door, within the larger, but now 
closed gate. Wealth may have its uses, and noble uses 
too, within the kingdom for it is somewhat remark- 
able how the faith of the two rich disciples shone out 
the brightest, when the faith of the rest suffered a 
temporary eclipse from the passing cross but he who 
possesses it must be as if he possessed it not. He 
must not regard it as his own, but as talents given him 
in trust by his Lord, their image and superscription 
being that of the Invisible King. 

Again, Jesus sets down vacillation, hesitancy, as a 
disqualification for citizenship in His kingdom. At 
the close of His Galilean ministry our Evangelist intro- 
duces us to a group of embryo disciples. The first of 
the three says, "Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever 
Thou goest" (ix. 57). Bold words they were, and 
doubtless well meant, but it was the language of a 
passing impulse, rather than of a settled conviction; 
it was the coruscation of a glowing, ardent tempera- 
ment. He had not counted the cost. The large word 
"whithersoever" might, indeed, easily be spoken, but it 
held within it a Gethsemane and a Calvary, paths of 
sorrow, shame, and death he was not prepared to face. 


And so Jesus neither welcomed nor dismissed him, 
but opening out one part of his "whithersoever," He 
gave it back to him in the words, "The foxes have 
holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests ; but the 
Son of man hath not where to lay His head." The 
second responds to the " Follow Me " of Christ with the 
request that he might be allowed first to go and bury 
his father. It was a most natural request, but parti- 
cipation in these funeral rites would entail a ceremonial 
uncleanness of seven days, by which time Jesus would 
be far away. Besides, Jesus must teach him, and the 
ages after him, that His claims were paramount ; that 
when He commands obedience must be instant and 
absolute, with no interventions, no postponement. 
Jesus replies to him in that enigmatical way of His, 
"Leave the dead to bury their own dead : but gojhou 
and publish abroad the kingdom of God;" indicating 
that this supreme crisis of his life is virtually a passing 
from death to life, a " resurrection from earth to things 
above." The last in this group of three volunteers his 
pledge, " I will follow Thee, Lord ; but first suffer me 
to bid farewell to them that are at my house" (ix. 61) ; 
but to him Jesus replies, mournfully and sorrowfully, 
" No man, having put his hand to the plough, and look- 
ing back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (ix. 62). 
Why does Jesus treat these two candidates so differ- 
ently? They both say, "I will follow Thee," the one 
in word, the other by implication ; they both request a 
little time for what they regard a filial duty ; why, then, 
be treated so differently, the one flu^istJFQOzaJrd to a 
still higher servi'ce, commissioned to preach the king- 
dom, and afterwards, if we may accept the tradition 
that he was Philip the Evangelist, passing up into the 
diaconate ; the other, unwelcomed and uncommissioned, 


but disapproved as " not fit for the kingdom " ? Why 
there should be this wide divergence between the two 
lives we cannot see, either from their manner or their 
words. It must have been a difference in the moral 
attitude of the two men, and which He who heard 
thoughts and read motives detected at once. In the 
case of the former there was the fixed, determined 
resolve,* which the bier of a dead father might hold 
back a little/ but which it could not break or bend. 
But Jesus saw in the other a double-minded soul, whose 
feet and heart moved in diverse, opposite ways, who 
gave, not his whole, but a very partial, self to his work ; 
and this halting, wavering one He dismissed with the 
words of forecasted doom, {t Not fit for the kingdom 
of God." 

It is a hard saying, with a seeming severity about it ; 
but is it not a truth universal and eternal ? Are any 
kingdoms, either of knowledge or power, won and held 
by the irresolute and wavering? Like the stricken 
men of Sodom, they weary themselves to find the door 
of the kingdom ; or if they do see the Beautiful Gates 
of a better life, they sit with the lame man, outside, or 
they linger on the steps, hearing the music indeed, but 
hearing it from afar. It is a truth of both dispensations, 
written in all the books; the Reubens who are " un- 
stable as water " can never excel ; the elder born, in 
the accident of years, they may be, but the birthright 
passes by them, to be inherited and enjoyed by others. 

But if the gates of the kingdom are irrevocably 
closed against the half-hearted, the self-indulgent, and 
the proud, there is a sesame to which they open gladly. 
u Blessed are ye poor," so reads the first and great 
Beatitude : " for yours is the kingdom of God " (vi. 20) ; 
and beginning with this present realization, Jesus goes 


on to speak of the strange contrasts and inversions the 
perfected kingdom will show, when the weepers will 
laugh, the hungry be full, and those who are despised 
and persecuted will rejoice an their exceeding great 
reward. But who are the " poor r to whom the gates 
of the kingdom are open so soon and so wide ? At 
first sight it would appear as if we must give a literal 
interpretation to the word, reading it in a worldly, 
temporal sense ; but this is not necessary. Jesus was 
now directly addressing His disciples (vi. 20), though, 
doubtless, His words were intended to pass beyond 
them, to those ever-enlarging circles of humanity who 
in the after-years should press forward to hear Him, 
But evidently the disciples were in no weeping mood 
to-day ; they would be elated and joyful over the recent 
miracles. Neither should we call them " poor," in the 
worldly sense of that word, for most of them had been 
called from honourable positions in society, while some 
had even f f hired servants " to wait upon and assist 
them. Indeed, it was not the wont of Jesus to recognize 
the class distinctions Society was so fond of drawing 
and defining. He appraised men, not by their means, 
but by the manhood which was in them ; and when He 
found a nobility of soul whether in the higher or the 
lower walks of life it made no difference He stepped 
forward to recognize and to salute it We must there- 
fore give to these words of Jesus, as to so many others, 
the deeper meaning, making the "blessed" of this 
Beatitude, who are now welcomed to the opened gate 
of the kingdom, the " pe^LJ^L-spirit, 1 ' as, indeed, 
St. Matthew writes it. 

What this spirit-poverty is, Jesus Himself explains, 
in a brief but wonderfully realistic parable. He draws 
for us the picture of two men at their Temple devotions. 


The one, a Pharisee, stands erect, with head uplifted, 
as if it were quite on a level with the heaven he was 
addressing, and with supercilious pride he counts his 
beads of rounded egotisms. He calls it a worship of 
God, when it is but a worship of self. He inflates the 
great " I," and then plays upon it, making it strike 
sharp and loud, like the tom-tom of a heathen fetish. 
Such is the man who fancies that he is rich toward 
God, that he has need of nothing, not even of mercy, 
when all the time he is utterly blind and miserably 
poor. The other is a publican, and so presumably 
rich. But how different his posture! With heart 
broken and contrite, self with him is a nothing, a 
zero ; nay, in his lowly estimate it had become a minus 
quantity, less than nothing, deserving only rebuke and 
chastisement. Disclaiming any good, either inherent 
or acquired, he puts the deep need and hunger of his 
soul into one broken cry, " God be merciful to me a 
sinner" (xviii. 13). Such are the two characters Jesus 
portrays as standing by the gate of the kingdom, the 
one proud in spirit, the other " poor in spirit ; " the 
one throwing upon the heavens the shadow of his 
magnified self, the other shrinking up into the pauper, 
the nothing that he was. But Jesus tells us that he 
was "justified," accepted, rather than the other. With 
nought he could call his own, save his deep need and 
his great sin, he finds an opened gate and a welcome 
within the kingdom ; while the proud in spirit is sent 
empty away, or carrying back only the tithed mint and 
anise, and all the vain oblations Heaven could not 

" Blessed " indeed are such " poor ; " for He giveth 
grace unto the lowly, while the proud He knoweth afar 
off. The humble, the meek, these shall inherit the 


earth, ay, and the heavens too, and they shall know 
how true is the paradox, having nothing, yet possess- 
ing all things. The fruit of the tree of life hangs low, 
and he must stoop who would gather it. He who 
would enter God's kingdom must first become "as a 
little child/' knowing nothing as yet, but longing to 
know even the mysteries of the kingdom, and having 
nothing but the plea of a great mercy and a great need. 
And are they not "blessed" who are citizens of the 
kingdom with righteousness, peace, and joy all their 
own, a peace which is perfect and Divine, and a joy 
which no man taketh from them ? Are they not 
blessed, thrice blessed, when the bright shadow of the 
Throne covers all their earthly life, making its dark 
places light, and weaving rainbows out of their very 
tears? He who through the strait : gate of repent- 
ajice passes within the kingdom finds it " the kingdom 
of heaven " indeed, his earthly years the beginnings 
of the heavenly life. 

And now we touch a point Jesus ever loved to 
illustrate and emphasize, the manner of the kingdom's 
growth, as with ever-widening frontiers it sweeps out- 
ward in its conquest of a world. It was a beautiful 
dream of Hebrew prophecy that in the latter days the 
kingdom of God, or the kingdom of the Messiah, 
should overlap the bounds of human empires, and 
ultimately cover the whole earth. Looking through her 
kaleidoscope of ever-shifting but harmonious figures, 
Prophecy was never weary of telling of the Golden 
Age she saw in the far future, when the shadows 
would lift, and a new Dawn, breaking put of Jerusalem, 
would steal over the world. Even the Gentiles should 
be drawn to its light, and kings to the brightness of 
its rising; the seas should offer their abundance as 


a willing tribute, and the isles should wait for and 
welcome its laws. Taking up into itself the petty 
strifes and jealousies of men, the discords of earth 
should cease ; humanity should again become a unit, 
restored and regenerate fellow-citizens of the new 
kingdom, the kingdom which should have no end, no 
boundaries either of space or time. 

Such was the dream of Prophecy, the kingdom Jesus 
sets Himself to found and realize upon earth. But 
how ? Disclaiming any rivalry with Pilate, or with 
his imperial master, Jesus said, " My kingdom is not 
of this world," so lifting it altogether out of the mould 
in which earthly dynasties are cast. " This world " 
uses force ; its kingdoms are won and held by metallic 
processes, tinctures of iron and steel. In the kingdom 
of God carnal weapons are out of place ; its only 
forces are truth and love, and he who takes the sword 
to advance this cause wounds but himself, after the 
vain manner of Baal's priests. " This world " counts 
heads or hands; the kingdom of God numbers its 
citizens by hearts alone. " This world " believes in 
pomp and show, in outward visibilities and symbols ; 
the kingdom of God cometh not " with observation ; " 
its voices are gentle as a zephyr, its footsteps noiseless 
as the coming of spring. If man had had the ordering 
of the kingdom he would have summoned to his aid 
all kinds of portents and surprises; he would have 
arranged processions of imposing events ; but Jesus 
likens the coming of the kingdom to a grain of mustard- 
seed cast into a garden, or to a handful of leaven hid 
in three sata of meal. The two parables, with minor 
distinctions, are one in their import, the leading thought 
common to both being the contrast between its ultimate 
growth and the smallness and obscurity of its begin- 


nings. In both the recreative force is a hidden force, 
buried out of sight, in the soil or in the meal. .In 
both the force works outward from its centre, the 
invisible becoming visible, the inner life assuming an 
outer, external form. In both we see the touch of life 
upon death ; for left to itself, the soil never would be 
anything more than dead earth, as the meal would be 
nothing more than dust, the broken ashes of a life 
that was departed. In both there is extension by 
assimilation, the leaven throwing itself out among the 
particles of kindred meal, while the tree attracts to 
itself the kindred elements of the soil. In both there 
is the mediation of the human hand ; but as if to show 
that the kingdom offers equal privilege to male and 
female, with like possibilities of service, the one parable 
shows us the hand of a man, the other the hand of a 
woman. In both there is a perfect work, a consum- 
mation, the one parable showing us the whole mass 
leavened, the other showing us the wide-spreading 
tree, with the birds nesting in its branches. 

Such, in outline, is the rise and progress of the 
kingdom of God in the heart of the individual man, 
and in the world ; for the human soul is the protoplasm, 
the germ-cell, out of which this world-wide kingdom is 
evolved. The mass is leavened only by the leavening 
of the separate units. And how comes the kingdom 
of God within the soul and life of man? Not with 
observation or supernatural portents, but silently as 
the flashing forth of light. Thought, desire, purpose, 
prayer these are the wheels of the chariot in which 
the Lord comes to His temple, the King into His 
kingdom. And when the kingdom of God is set up 
" within you " the outer life shapes itself to the new 
purpose and aim, the writ and will of the King running 


unhindered through every department, even to its out- 
most frontier, while thoughts, feelings, desires, and all 
the golden coinage of the heart bear, not, as before, 
the image of Self, but the image and superscription 
of the Invisible King the " Not I, but Christ." 

And so the honour of the kingdom is in our keep- 
ing, as the growths of the kingdom are in our hands. 
The Divine Cloud adjusts its pace to our human steps, 
alas, often far too slow I Shall the leaven stop with 
us, as we make religion a kind of sanctified selfish- 
ness, doing nothing but gauging the emotions and 
singing its little doxologies ? Do we forget that the 
weak human hand carries the Ark of God, and pushes 
forward the boundaries of the kingdom ? Do we 
forget that hearts are only won by hearts? The 
kingdom of God on earth is the kingdom of surrendered 
wills and of consecrated lives. Shall we not, then, 
pray, " Thy kingdom come," and living " more nearly 
as we pray," seek a redeemed humanity as subjects of 
our King? So will the Divine purpose become a 
realization, and the "morning" which now is always 
"somewhere in the world" will be everywhere, the 
promise and the dawn of a heavenly day, the eternal 
Sabbath ! 


IT is only natural that our Evangelist should linger 
with a professional as well as a personal interest 
over Christ's connection with human suffering and 
disease, and that in recounting the miracles of healing 
he should be peculiarly at home; the theme would 
be in such thorough accord with his studies and tastes. 
It is true he does not refer to these miracles as being 
a fulfilment of prophecy ; it is left for St. Matthew, 
who weaves his Gospel on the unfinished warp of the 
Old Testament, to recall the words of Isaiah, how 
" t Himself took our infirmities and bare our diseases;" 
yet our physician-Evangelist evidently lingers over the 
pathological side of his Gospel with an intense interest. 
St. John passes by the miracles of healing in compara- 
tive silence, though he stays to give us two cases which 
are omitted by the Synoptists that of the nobleman's 
son at Capernaum, and that of the impotent man at 
Bethesda. But St. John's Gospel moves in more 
etherial spheres, and the touches he chronicles are 
rather the touches of mind with mind, spirit with spirit, 
than the physical touches through the coarser medium 
of the flesh. The Synoptists, however, especially in 
their earlier chapters, bring the works of Christ into 
prominence, travelling, too very much over the same 


ground, though each introduces some special facts 
omitted by the rest, while in their record of the same 
fact each Evangelist throws some additional colouring. 

Grouping together the miracles of healing for our 
space will not allow a separate treatment of each our 
thought is first arrested by the variety of forms in 
which suffering and disease presented themselves to 
Jesus, the wideness of the ground, physical and 
psychical, the miracles of healing cover. Our Evan- 
gelist mentions fourteen different cases, not, however, 
as including the whole, or even the greater part, but 
rather as being typical, representative cases. They 
are, as it were, the nearer constellations, localized and 
named ; but again and again in his narrative we find 
whole groups and clusters lying farther back, making 
a sort of Milky Way of light, whose thickly clustered 
worlds baffle all our attempts at enumeration. Such are 
the " women " of chap. viii. ver. 2, who had been healed 
of their infirmities, but whose record 'is omitted in the 
Gospel story ; and such, too, are those groups of cures 
mentioned in chapters iv. 40, v. 15, vi. 19, and vii. 21, 
when the Divine power seemed to culminate, throwing 
itself out in a largesse of blessing, fairly raining down 
its bright gifts of healing like meteoric showers. 

Turning now to the typical cases mentioned by 
St. Luke, they are as follows : the man possessed 
of an unclean demon; Peter's wife's mother, who 
was sick of a fever ; a leper, a paralytic, the man 
with the withered hand, the servant of the centurion, 
the demoniac, the woman with an issue, the boy 
possessed with a demon, the man with a dumb 
demon, the woman with an infirmity, the man with 
the dropsy, the ten lepers, and blind Bartimaeus. 
The list, like so many lines of dark meridians, measures 


off the entire circumference of the world of suffering, 
beginning with the withered hand, and going on and 
down to that "sacrament of death/' leprosy, and to 
that yet further deep, demoniacal possession. Some 
diseases were of more recent origin, as the case of 
fever ; others were chronic, of twelve or eighteen years' 
standing, or lifelong, as in the case of the possessed 
boy. In some a solitary organ was affected, as when 
the hand had withered, or the tongue was tied by some 
power of evil, or the eyes had lost their gift of vision. 
In others the whole person was diseased, as when the 
fires of the fever shot "through the heated veins, or 
the leprosy was covering the flesh with the white 
scales of death. But whatever its nature or its stage, 
the disease was acute, as far as human probabilities 
went, past all hope of healing. It was no slight attack, 
but a "great fever" which had stricken down the 
mother-in-law of Peter, the intensive adjective show- 
ing that it had reached its danger-point. And where 
among human means was there hope for a restored 
vision, when for years the last glimmer of light had 
faded away, when even the optic nerve was atrophied 
by the long disuse ? and where, among the limited 
pharmacopoeias of ancient times, or even among the 
vastly extended lists of modern times, was there a cure 
for the leper, who carried, burned into his very flesh, 
his sentence of death ? No, it was not the trivial, 
temporary cases of sickness Jesus took in hand ; but 
He passed into that innermost shrine of the temple of 
suffering, the shrine that lay in perpetual night, and 
over whose doorway was the inscription of Dante's 
" Inferno," " All hope abandon, ye who enter here ! " 
But when Jesus entered this grim abode He turned its 
darkness to light, its sighs to songs, bringing hope 



to despairing ones, and leading back into the light of 
day these captives of Death, as Orpheus is fabled to 
have brought back to earth the lost Eurydice. 

And not only are the cases so varied in their cha- 
racter, and humanly speaking, hopeless in their nature, 
but they were presented to Jesus in such a diversity 
of ways. They are none of them arranged for, studied. 
They could not have formed any plan or routine of 
mercy, nor were they timed for the purpose of pro- 
ducing spectacular effects. They were nearly all of 
them impromptu, extemporary events, coming without 
His seeking, and coming often as interruptions to His 
own plans. Now it is in the synagogue, in the pauses 
of public worship, that Jesus rebukes an unclean devil, 
or He bids the cripple stretch out his withered hand. 
Now it is in the city, amid the crowd, or out upon the 
plain ; now it is within the house of a chief Pharisee, 
in the very midst of an entertainment ; while at other 
times He is walking on the road, when, without even 
stopping in His journey, He wills the leper clean, or 
He throws the gift of life and health forward to the 
centurion's servant, whom He has not seen. No times 
were inopportune to Him, and no places were foreign 
to the Son of man, where men suffered and pain abode. 
Jesus refused no request on the ground that the time 
was not well chosen, and though He did again and 
again refuse the request of selfish interest or vain 
ambition, He never once turned a deaf ear to the cry 
of sorrow or of pain, no matter when or whence it 

And if we consider His methods of healing we find 
the same diversity. Perhaps we ought not to use that 
word, fqr there was a singular absence of method. 
There was nothing set, artificial in His way, but an 


easy freedom, a beautiful naturalness. In one respect, 
and perhaps in one only, are all similar, and that is in 
the absence of intermediaries. There was no use of 
means, no prescription of remedies ; for in the seeming 
exception, the clay with which He anointed the eyes of 
the blind, and the waters of Siloam which He pre- 
scribed, were not remedial in themselves ; the washing 
was rather the test of the man's faith, while the anoint- 
ing was a sort of " aside/' spoken, not to the man 
himself, but to the group of onlookers, preparing them 
for the fresh manifestation of His power. Generally a 
word was enough, though we read of His healing 
"touch," and twice of the symbolic laying on of hands. 
And by-the-way, it is somewhat singular that Jesus 
made use of the touch at the healing of the leper, 
when the touch meant ceremonial uncleanness. Why 
does He not speak the word only, as He did afterwards 
at the healing of the " ten " ? And why does He, as 
it were, go out of His way to put Himself in personal 
contact with a leper, who was under a ceremonial ban ? 
Was it not to show that a new era had dawned, an era 
in which uncleanness should be that of the heart, the 
life, and no longer the outward uncleanness, which any 
accident of contact might induce ? Did not the touch- 
ing of the leper mean the abrogation of the multiplied 
bans of the Old Dispensation, just as afterwards a 
heavenly vision coming to Peter wiped out the dividing- 
line between clean and unclean meats ? And why did 
not the touch of the leper make Jesus ceremonially 
unclean? for we do not read that it did, or that He 
altered His plans one whit because of it. Perhaps we 
find our answer in the Levitical regulations respecting 
the leprosy. We read (Lev. xiv. 28) that at the 
^cleansing of the leper the priest was to dip his right 


finger in the blood and in the oil, and put it on the ear, 
and hand, and foot of the person cleansed. The finger 
of the priest was thus the index or sign of purity, the 
lifting up of the ban which his leprosy had put around 
and over him. And when Jesus touched the leper it 
was the priestly touch ; it carried its own cleansing 
with it, imparting power and purity, instead of con- 
tracting the defilement of another. 

But if Jesus touched the leper, and permitted the 
woman of Capernaum to touch Him, or at any rate 
His garment, He studiously avoided any personal con- 
tact with those possessed of devils. He recognized 
here the presence of evil spirits, the powers of dark- 
ness, which have enthralled the weaker human spirit, 
and for these a word is enough. But how different a 
word to His other words of healing, when He said to 
the leper, " I will ; be thou clean," and to Bartimseus, 
" Receive thy sight " ! Now it is a word sharp, im- 
perative, not spoken to the poor helpless victim, but 
thrown over and beyond him, to the dark personality, 
which held a human soul in a vile, degrading bondage. 
And so while the possessed boy lay writhing and foam- 
ing on the ground, Jesus laid no hand upon him ; it 
was not till after He had spoken the mighty word, and 
the demon had departed from him, that Jesus took him 
by the hand and lifted him up. 

But whether by word or by touch, the miracles were 
wrought with consummate ease; there were none of 
those artistic flourishes which mere performers use as 
a blind to cover their sleight of hand. There was no 
straining for effect, no apparent effort. Jesus Himself 
seemed perfectly unconscious that He was doing any- 
thing marvellous or even unusual. The words of power 
fell naturalljy from His lips, like the falling of leaves 


from the tree of life, carrying, wheresoever they might 
go, healing for the nations. 

But if the method of the cures is wonderful, the 
unstudied ease and simple naturalness of the Healer, 
the completeness of the cures is even more so. In all 
the multitudes of cases there was no failure. We find 
the disciples baffled and chagrined, attempting what 
they cannot perform, as with the possessed boy ; but 
with Jesus failure was an impossible word. Nor did 
Jesus simply make them better, bringing them into a 
state of convalescence, and so putting them in the way 
of getting well. The cure was instant and complete ; 
" immediately " is St. Luke's frequent and favourite 
word ; so much so that she who half an hour ago was 
stricken down with malignant fever, and apparently 
at the point of death, now is going about her ordinary 
duties as if nothing had happened, " ministering " to 
Peter's many guests. Though Nature possesses a great 
deal of resilient force, her periods of convalescence, 
when the disease itself is checked, are more or less 
prolonged, and weeks, or sometimes months, must 
elapse before the spring-tides of health return, bringing 
with them a sweet overflow, an exuberance of life. 
Not so, however, when Jesus was the Healer. At His 
word, or at the mere beckoning of His finger, the tides 
of health, which had gone far out in the ebb, suddenly 
returned in all their spring fulness, lifting high on their 
wave the bark which through hopeless years had been 
settling down into its miry grave. Eighteen years of 
disease had made the woman quite deformed ; the con- 
tracting muscles had bent the form God made to stand 
erect, so that she could " in no wise lift herself up ; " 
but when Jesus said, " Woman, thou art loosed from 
j, infirmity," and laid His hands upon her, in an 


instant the tightened muscles relaxed, the bent form 
regained its earlier grace, for *' she was made straight, 
and glorified God." One moment, with the Christ in 
it, was more than eighteen years of disease, and with 
the most perfect ease it could undo all the eighteen 
years had done. And this is but a specimen case, for 
the same completeness characterizes all the cures that 
Jesus wrought. " They were made whole/' as it reads, 
no matter what the malady might be; and though 
disease had loosened all the thousand strings, so that 
the wonderful harp was reduced to silence, or at best 
could but strike discordant notes, the hand of Jesus has 
but to touch it, and in an instant each string recovers 
its pristine tone, the jarring sounds vanish, and body, 
" mind, and soul according well, awake sweet music as 

But though Jesus wrought these many and complete 
cures, making the healing of the sick a sort of pastime, 
the interludes in that Divine "Messiah," still He 
did not work these miracles indiscriminately, without 
method or conditions. He freely placed His service 
at the disposal of others, giving Himself up to one tire- 
less round of mercy ; but it is evident there was some 
selection for these gifts of healing. The healing power 
was not thrown out randomly, falling on any one it 
might chance to strike ; it flowed out in certain direc- 
tions only, in ordered channels ; it followed certain 
lines and laws. For instance, these circles of healing 
were geographically narrow. They followed the per- 
sonal presence of Jesus, and with one or two excep- 
tions, were never found apart from that presence ; so 
that, many as they were, they would form but a small 
part of suffering humanity. And even within these 
circles of His visible presence we are not to suppose 


that all were healed. Some were taken, arid others 
were left, to a suffering from which only death would 
release them. Can we discover the law of this election 
of mercy ? We think we may. 

(i) In the first place, there must be the need for the 
Divine intervention. This perhaps goes without saying, 
and does not seem to mean much, since among those 
who were left unhealed there were needs just as great 
as those of the more favoured ones. But while the 
" need " in some cases was not enough to secure the 
Divine mercy, in other cases it was all that was asked. 
If the disease was mental or psychical, with reason 
all bewildered, and the firmaments of Right and Wrong 
mixed confusedly together, making a chaos of the soul, 
that was all Jesus required. At other times He waited 
for the desire to be evoked and the request to be made ; 
but for these cases of lunacy, epilepsy, and demoniacal 
possession He waived the other conditions, and 
without waiting for the request, as in the synagogue 
(iv. 34) or on the Gadarene coast, He spoke the word, 
which brought order to a distracted soul, and which 
led Reason back to her Jerusalem, to the long-vacant 

For others the need itself was not sufficient ; there 
must be tfie request. Our desire for any blessing is 
our appraisement of its value, and Jesus dispensed His 
gifts of healing on the Divine conditions, " Ask, and 
ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find." How the 
request came, whether from the sufferer himself or 
through some intercessor, it did not matter; for no 
request for healing came to Jesus to be disregarded or 
denied. Nor was it always needful to put the request 
into words. Prayer is too grand and great a thing 
for the lips to have a monopoly of it, and the deepest 


prayers may be put into acts as well as into words, 
as they are sometimes uttered in inarticulate sighs, and 
in groans which are too deep for words. And was it 
not truest prayer, as the multitudes carried their sick 
and laid them down at the feet of Jesus, even had 
their voice spoken no solitary word ? and was it not 
truest prayer, as they put themselves, with their bent 
forms and withered hands right in His way, not able 
to speak one single word, but .throwing across to Him 
the piteous but hopeful look ? The request was thus 
the expression of their desire, and at the same time 
the expression of their faith, telling of the trust they 
reposed in His pity, and His power, a trust He was 
always delighted to see, and to which He always 
responded, as He Himself said again and again, " Thy 
faith hath saved thee." Faith then, as now, was the 
sesame to which all Heaven's gates fly open ; and 
as in the case of the paralytic who was borne of four, 
and let down through the roof, even a vicarious faith 
prevails with Jesus, as it brings to their friend a double 
and complete salvation. And so they who sought 
Jesus as their Healer found Him, and they who 
believed entered into His rest, this lower rest of a per- 
fect health and perfect life ; while they who were 
indifferent and they who doubted were left behind, 
crushed by the sorrow that He would have removed, 
and tortured by pains that His touch would have com- 
pletely stilled. 

And now it remains for us to gather up the light of 
these miracles, and to focus it on Him who was the 
central Figure, Jesus, the Divine Healer. And (i) 
the miracles of healing speak of the knowledge of 
Jesus. The question, " What is man ? " has been the 
standing question of the ages, but it is still unanswered, 


or answered but in part. His complex nature is still 
a mystery, the eternal riddle of the Sphinx, and (Edipus 
comes not Physiology can number and name the bones 
and muscles, can tell the forms and functions of the 
different organs ; chemistry can resolve the body into 
its constituent elements, and weigh out their exact pro- 
portions ; philosophy can map out the departments of 
the mind ; but man remains the great enigma. Biology 
carries her silken clue right up to the primordial cell ; 
but here she finds a Gordian knot, which her keenest 
instruments cannot cut, or her keenest wit unravel. 
Within that complex nature of ours are oceans of 
mystery which Thought may indeed explore, but which 
she cannot fathom, paths which the vulture eye of 
Reason hath not seen, whose voices are the voices of 
unknown tongues, answering each other through the 
mist. But how familiar did Jesus seem with all these 
life-secrets ! how intimate with all the life-forces ! 
How versed He was in etiology, knowing without 
possibility of mistake whence diseases came, and just 
where they looked ! It was no mystery to Him 
how the hand had shrunk, shrivelling into a mass of 
bones, with no skill in its fingers, and no life in its 
cloyed-up veins, or how the eyes had lost their power 
of vision. His knowledge of the human frame was 
an exact and perfect knowledge, reading its innermost 
secrets, as in a transparency, knowing to a certainty 
what links had dropped out of the subtle mechan- 
ism, and what had been warped out of place, and 
knowing well just at what point and to what an 
extent to apply the healing remedy, which was His 
own volition. All earth and all heaven were with- 
out a covering to His gaze; and what was this but 
Omniscience ? 


(2) Again, the miracles of healing speak of the 
compassion of Jesus. It was with no reluctance that 
He wrought these works of mercy ; it was His delight. 
His heart was drawn towards suffering and'pain by the 
magnetism of a Divine sympathy, or rather, we ought 
to ""say, towards the sufferers themselves; for suffering 
and pain, like sin and woe, were exotics in His Father's 
garden, the deadly nightshade an enemy had sown. 
And so we mark a great tenderness in all His dealings 
with the afflicted. He does not apply the caustic of 
bitter and biting words. Even when, as we may sup- 
pose, the suffering is the harvest of earlier sin, as in the 
case of the paralytic, Jesus speaks no harsh reproaches ; 
He says simply and kindly, " Go in peace, and sin no 
more." And do we not find here a reason why these 
miracles of healing were so frequent in His ministry ? 
Was it not because in His mind Sickness was some- 
how related to Sin ? If miracles were needed to attest 
the Divineness of His mission, there was no need of the 
constant succession of them, no need that they should 
form a part, and a large part, of the daily task. Sick- 
ness is, so to speak, something unnaturally natural. 
It results from the transgression of some physical law, 
as Sin is the transgression of some moral law ; and He 
who is man's Saviour brings a complete salvation, 
a redemption for the body as well as a redemption for 
the soul. Indeed, the diseases of the body are but the 
shadows, seen and felt, of the deeper diseases of the 
soul, and with Jesus the physical healing was but a 
step to the higher truth and higher experience, that 
spiritual cleansing, that inner creation of a right spirit, 
a perfect heart. And so Jesus carried on the two works 
side by side ; they were the two parts of His one and 
great salvation ; and as He loved and pitied the sinner, 


so He pitied and loved the sufferer ; His sympathies all 
went out to meet him, preparing the way for His healing 
virtues to follow. 

(3) Again, the miracles of healing speak of the power 
of Jesus. This was seen indirectly when we considered 
the completeness of the cures, and the wide field they 
covered, and we need not enlarge upon it now. But 
what a consciousness of might there was in Jesus ! 
Others, prophets and apostles, have healed the sick, 
but their power was delegated. It came as in waves 
of Divine impulse, intermittent and temporary. The 
power that Jesus wielded was inherent and absolute, 
deeps which knew neither cessation nor diminution. 
His will was supreme over all forces. Nature's potencies 
are diffused and isolated, slumbering in herb or metal, 
flower or leaf, in mountain or sea. But all are inert and 
useless until man distils them with his subtle alchemies, 
and then applies them by his slow processes, dissolving 
the tinctures in the blood, sending on its warm currents 
the healing virtue, if haply it may reach its goal and 
accomplish its mission. But all these potencies lay 
in the hand or in the will of Christ. The forces of 
life all were marshalled under His bidding. He had 
but to say to one " Go," and it went, here or there, 
or any whither ; nor does it go for nought ; it accom- 
plishes its high behest, the great Master's will. Nay, 
the power of Jesus is supreme even in that outlying 
and dark world of evil spirits. The demons fly at 
His rebuke ; and let Him throw but one healing word 
across the dark, chaotic soul of one possessed, and 
in an instant Reason dawns ; bright thoughts play 
on the horizon ; the firmaments of Right and Wrong 
separate to infinite distances ; and out of the darkness 
a Paradise emerges, of beauty and light, where the new 


son of God resides, and God Himself comes down in 
the cool and the heat of the days alike. What power 
is this ? Is it not the power of God ? is it not 
Omnipotence ? 


LUKE ix. 1-17. 

THE Galilean ministry was drawing to a close, 
for the "great Light" which had risen over the 
northern province must now move southward, to set 
behind a cross and a grave. Jesus, however, is reluc- 
tant to leave these borders, amid whose hills the greater 
part of His life has been spent, and among whose com- 
posite population His greatest successes have been won, 
without one last effort. Calling together the Twelve, 
who hitherto have been Apostles in promise and in 
name rather than in fact, He lays His plans before 
them. Dividing the district into sections, so as to 
equalize their labours and prevent any overlapping, He 
sends them out in pairs ; for in the Divine arithmetic 
two are more than twice one, more than the sum of the 
separate units by all the added force and strength of 
fellowship. They are to be the heralds of the new 
kingdom, to " preach the kingdom of God," their in- 
signia no outward, visible badge, but the investiture of 
authority over all demons, and power over all diseases. 
Apostles of the Unseen, servants of the Invisible King, 
they must dismiss all worldly cares; they must not 
even make provision for their journey, weighting them- 
selves with such impedimenta as wallets stored with 


bread or changes of raiment. They must go forth in an 
absolute trust in God, thus proving themselves citizens 
of the heavenly kingdom, whose gates they open to all 
who will repent and step up into them. They may take 
a staff, for that will help rather than hinder on the steep 
mountain paths ; but since the King's business requireth 
haste, they must not spend their time in the interminable 
salutations of the age, nor in going about from house to 
house ; such changes would only distract, diverting to 
themselves the thought which should be centred upon 
their mission. Should any city not receive them, they 
must retire at once, shaking off, as they depart, the very 
dust from their feet, as a testimony against them. 

Such were the directions, as Jesus dismissed the 
Twelve, sending them to reap the Galilean harvest, and 
at the same time to prepare them for the wider fields 
which after the Pentecost would open to them on every 
side. It is only by incidental allusions that we learn 
anything as to the success of the mission, but when 
our Evangelist says " they went throughout the villages, 
preaching the Gospel and healing everywhere," these 
frequent miracles of healing would imply that they 
found a sympathetic and receptive people. Nor were 
the impulses of the new movement confined to the 
lower reaches of society ; for even the palace felt its 
vibrations, and St. Luke, who seems to have had private 
means of information within the Court, possibly through 
Chuza and Manaen, .pauses to give us a kind of silhouette 
of the Tetrarch. Herod himself is perplexed. Like a 
vane, "that fox" swings round to the varying gusts of 
public opinion that come eddying within the palace 
from the excited world outside ; and as some say that 
Jesus is Elias, and others "one of the old prophets/ 
while others aver that He is John himself, risen from 


the dead, this last rumour falls upon the ears of Herod 
like alarming thunders, making him quiver like an aspen. 
"And he sought to see Jesus." The " conscience 
that makes cowards of us all" had unnerved him, and 
he longed by a personal acquaintance with Jesus to 
waive back out of his sight the apparition of the 
murdered prophet. Who Jesus might be did not 
much concern Herod. He might be Elias, or one of 
the old prophets, anything but John ; and so when 
Herod did see Jesus afterwards, and saw that He was 
not the risen Baptist, but the Man of Galilee, his 
courage revived, and he gave Jesus into the hands of 
his cohorts, that they might mock Him with the faded 

What steps Herod took to secure an interview we 
do not know ; but the verb indicates more than a wish 
on his part ; it implies some plan or attempt to gratify 
the wish; and probably it was these advances of 
Herod, together with the Apostles' need of rest after 
the strain and excitements of their mission, which 
prompted Jesus to seek a place of retirement outside 
the bounds of Antipas. On the northern shore of the 
Sea of Galilee, and on the eastern bank of the Jordan, 
was a second Bethsaida, or " House of Fish " as the 
name means, built by Philip, and to which, in honour 
of Caesar's daughter, he gave the surname of " Julias." 
The city itself stood on the hills, some three or four 
miles back from the shore ; while between the city and 
the lake swept a wide and silent plain, all untilled, as 
the New Testament "desert" means, but rich in 
pasturage, as the " much grass " of John vi. 10 would 
show. This still shore offered, as it seemed, a safe 
refuge from the exacting and intrusive crowds of 
Capernaum, whose constant coming and going left 


them no leisure so much as to eat ; and bidding them 
launch the familiar boat, Jesus and the twelve sail 
away to the other side. The excited crowds, however, 
which followed them to the water's edge, are not so 
easily to be shaken off; but guessing the direction of 
the boat, they seek to head her off by a quick detour 
round the shore. And some of them do ; for when 
the boat grates on the northern shingle some of the 
swift-footed ones are already there ; while stretching 
back for miles is a stream of humanity, of both sexes 
and of all ages, but all fired with one purpose. The 
desert has suddenly grown populous. 

And how does Jesus bear this interruption to His 
plans ? Does He chafe at this intrusion of the people 
upon His quiet hours ? Does He resent their impor- 
tunity, calling it impertinence, then driving them from 
Him with a whip of sharp words ? Not so. Jesus 
was accustomed to interruptions ; they formed almost 
the staple of His life. Nor did He repulse one solitary 
soul which sought sincerely His mercy, no matter how 
unseasonable the hour, as men would read the hours. 
So now Jesus " received" them, or " welcomed " them, 
as it is in' the R.V. It is a favourite word with 
St. Luke, found in his Gospel more frequently than in 
the other three Gospels together. Applied to persons, 
it means nearly always to receive as guests, to welcome 
to hospitality and home. And such is its meaning 
here. Jesus takes the place of the host. True, it is 
a desert place, but it is a part of the All- Father's world, 
a room of the Father's house, carpeted with grass 
and ablaze with flowers ; and Jesus, by His welcome, 
transforms the desert into a guest-chamber, where in 
a new way He keeps the Passover with His disciples, 
at the same time entertaining His thousands of self- 


bidden guests, giving to them truth, speaking of the 
kingdom of God, and giving health, healing " those 
that had need of healing." 

It was toward evening, "when the day began to 
wear away," that Jesus gave to a bright and busy day 
its crowning benediction. The thought had already 
ripened into purpose, in His mind, to spread a table 
for them in the wilderness; for how could He, the 
compassionate One, send them to their homes famish- 
ing and faint ? These poor, shepherdless sheep have 
put themselves into His care. Their simple, unpro- 
viding confidence has made Him in a sense responsible, 
and can He disappoint that confidence? It is true 
they have been thoughtless and improvident. They 
have let the enthusiasm of the hour carry them away, 
without making any provision of the necessary food ; 
but even this does not check the flow of the Divine 
compassion, for Jesus proceeds to fill up their lack of 
thought by His Divine thoughtfulness, and their scarcity 
with His Divine affluence. 

According to St. John, it was Jesus who took tht 
initiative, as He put the test-question to Philip, 
"Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" 
Philip does not reply to the "whence;" that may stand 
aside awhile, as in mathematical language he speaks 
to the previous question, which is their ability to buy. 
"Two hundred pennyworth of bread/' he said, "is not 
sufficient for them, that every one may take a little." 
He does not say how much would be required to 
satisfy the hunger of the multitude ; his reckoning is 
not for a feast, but for a taste, to every one " a little." 
Nor does he calculate the full cost of even this, but 
says simply, " Two hundred pennyworth would not be 
sufficient;" Evidently, in Philip's mind the two hundred 



pence is the known quantity of the equation, and he 
works out his calculation from that, as he proves the 
impossibility of buying bread for this vast company 
anywhere. We may therefore conclude that the two 
hundred pence represented the value of the common 
purse, the purchasing power of the Apostolic com- 
munity ; and this was a sum altogether inadequate to 
meet the cost of providing bread for -the multitude. 
The only alternative, as far as the disciples see, is to 
dismiss them, and let them requisition for themselves ; 
and in a peremptory manner they ask Jesus to " send 
the multitude away," reminding Him of what certainly 
they had no need to remind Him, that they were here 
" in a desert place." 

The disciples had spoken in their subjunctive, non 
possumus, way ; it is now time for Jesus to speak, 
which He does, not in interrogatives longer, but in His 
imperative, commanding tone: "Give ye them to eat," 
a word which throws the disciples back upon them- 
selves in astonishment and utter helplessness. What 
can they do ? The whole available supply, as Andrew 
reports it, is but five barley loaves and two small fishes, 
which a lad has brought, possibly for their own refresh- 
ment. Five flat loaves of barley, which was the food 
of the poorest of the poor, and "two small fishes/' as 
St. John calls them, throwing a bit of local colouring into 
the narrative by his diminutive word these are the 
foundation repast, which Jesus asks to be brought to 
Himself, that from Himself it may go, broken and 
enlarged, to the multitude of guests. Meantime the 
crowd is just as large, and perhaps more excited and 
impatient than before ; for they would not understand 
these /< asides " between the disciples and the Master, 
nor could they read as yet His compassionate and 


benevolent thought. It, would be a pushing, jostling 
crowd, as these thousands were massed on the hill-side. 
Some are gathered in little groups, discussing the 
Messiahship ; others are clustered round some relative 
or friend, who to-day has been wonderfully healed ; 
while others, of the forward sort, are selfishly elbowing 
their way to the front. The whole scene is a kaleido- 
scope of changing form and colour, a perfect chaos of 
confusion. But Jesus speaks again : " Make them sit 
down in companies ; " and those words, thrown across 
the seething mass, reduce it to order, crystallizing 
it, as it were, into measured and numbered lines. 
St. Mark, half-playfully, likens it to a garden, with its 
parterres of flowers ; and such indeed it was, but it was 
a garden of the higher cult, with 'its variegated beds of 
humanity, a hundred men broad, and fifty deep. 

When order was secured, and all were in their places, 
Jesus takes His place as the host at the head of the 
extemporized table, and though it is most frugal fare, 
He holds the barley loaves heavenward, and lifting up 
His eyes, He blesses God, probably in the words of 
the usual formula, " Blessed art Thou, Jehovah our 
God, King of the world, Who causeth to come forth 
bread from the earth." Then breaking the bread, He 
distributes it among the disciples, bidding them bear 
it to the people. It is not a matter of moment as to 
the exact point where the supernatural came in, whether 
it was in the breaking or the distributing. Somewhere 
a power which must have been Divine touched the 
bread, for the broken pieces strangely grew, enlarging 
rapidly as they were minished. It is just possible that 
we have a clue to the mystery in the tense of the verb, 
for the imperfect, which denotes continued action, would 
read, " He brake," or " He kept on breaking/' from 


which we might almost infer that the miracle was 
coincident with the touch. But whether so or not, the 
power was equal to the occasion, and the supply over 
and above the largest need, completely satisfying the 
hunger of the five thousand men, besides the off-group 
of women and children, who, though left out of the 
enumeration, were within the circle of the miracle, the 
remembered and satisfied guests of the Master. 

It now remains for us to gather up the meaning 
and the practical lessons of the miracle. And first, 
it reveals to us the Divine pity. When Jesus called 
Himself the Son of man it was a title full of deep 
meaning, and most appropriate. He was the true, the 
ideal Humanity, humanity as it would have been with- 
out the warps and discolourations that Sin has made, 
and within His heart were untold depths of sympathy, 
the "fellow-feeling that mak^s man wondrous kind." 
To the haughty and the proud He was stern, lowering 
upon them with a withering scorn ; to the unreal, the 
false, the unclean He was severity itself, with light- 
nings in His looks and terrible thunders in His 
" woes ; " but for troubled and tired souls He had 
nothing but tenderness and gentleness, and a compas- 
sion that was infinite. Evfen had He not called the 
weary and heavy-laden to Himself, they would have 
sought Him ; they would have read the " Come " in 
the sunlight of His face. Jesus felt for others a 
vicarious pain, a vicarious sorrow, His heart respond- 
ing to it at once, as the delicately poised needle 
responds to the subtle sparks that flash in upon it 
from, without. So here ; He receives the multitude 
kindly, even though they are strangers, and though 
they have thwarted His purpose and broken in upon 
His rest, and as this stream of human life flows out 

ix. 1-17.] THE MIRACLE OF THE LOAVES. 277 

to Him His compassion flows out to them. He com- 
miserates their forlorn condition, wandering like stray- 
ing sheep upon the mountains ; He gives Himself up 
to them, healing all that were sick, assuaging the pain 
or restoring the lost sense ; while at the same time He 
ministers to a higher nature, telling them of the king- 
dom of God, which had come nigh to them, and which 
was theirs if they would surrender themselves to it and 
obey. Nor was even this enough to satisfy the prompt- 
ings of His deep pity, but all-forgetful of His own 
weariness, He lengthens out this day of mercy, stay- 
ing to minister to their lower, physical wants, as He 
spreads for them a table in the wilderness. Verily He 
was, incarnate, as He is in His glory, " touched with 
the feeling of our infirmities." 

Again, we see the Divine love of order and arrange- 
ment. Nothing was done until the crowding and con- 
fusion had ceased, and even the Divine beneficence 
waits until the turbulent mass has become quiet, settled 
down into serried lines ; the five thousand making two 
perfect squares. " Order," it is said, " is Heaven's 
first law ; " but whether the first or the second, certain 
it is that Heaven gives us the perfection of order. It 
is only in the lawless wills of man that " time is broke, 
and no proportion kept." In the heavenly state nothing 
is out of place or out of time. All wills there play into 
each other with such absolute precision that life itself 
is a song, a Gloria in Excelsis. And how this is seen 
in all the works of God ! What rhythmic motions are 
in the marches of the stars and the processions of the 
seasons 1 To everything a place, to everything a time ; 
such is the unwritten law of the realm of physics, where 
Law is supreme, and anarchy is unknown. So in our 
earthly lives, on their secular and on their spiritual 


side alike, order is time, -order is strength, and he who 
is deficient in this grace should practise on it the more. 
Avoid Slovenliness ; it is a distant relation of Sin itself. 
Arrange your duties, and do not let them crowd one 
upon the other. Set the greater duties, not abreast, 
but one ^behind the other, filling up the spaces with the 
smaller ones. Do not let things drift, or your life, 
built for carrying precious argosies, and accomplishing 
something, will break up into pieces, the flotsam and 
jetsam of a barren shore. In prayer be orderly. 
Arrange your desires. Let some come first, while 
others stand back in the second or the third row, wait- 
ing their turn. If your relations with your fellows have 
got a little disarranged, atwist, seek to readjust the 
disturbed relation. Oppose what is evil and mean with 
all your might ; but if no principle is involved, even at 
the cost of a little feeling, seek to have things put 
square. To get things into a tangle requires no great 
skill ; but he who would be a -true artist, keeping the 
Divine pattern before him, and ever working towards 
it, if not up to it, may reduce the tangled skein to 
harmony, and like the Gobelin tapestry-makers, weave 
a life that is noble and beautiful, a life on which men 
will love to gaze. 

Again, we see the Divine concern for little things. 
Abundance always tempts to extravagance and waste. 
And so here ; the broken remnants of the repast might 
have been thrown away as of no account ; but Jesus 
bade them, " Gather up the fragments, that nothing be 
lost ; f> and we read they filled with the broken bread, 
which remained over and above to them that had eaten, 
twelve baskets full and, by the way, the word rendered 
" basket " here corresponds with the frugal fare, for, 
made of willow or of wicker, it was of the coarsest 

ix. 1-17.] THE MIRACLE OF THE LOAVES. 279 

kind, used only by the poor. What became of the 
fragments, which outweighed the original supply, we 
do not read ; but though they were only the crumbs of 
the Divine bounty, and though there was no present 
use for them, Jesus would not allow them to be wasted. 
But the true meaning of the narrative lies deeper than 
this. It is a miracle of a new order, this multiplying 
of the loaves. In His other miracles Jesus has wrought 
on the line of Nature, accelerating her slower processes, 
and accomplishing in an instant, by His mere volition, 
what by natural causes must have been the work of 
time, but which in the, specific cases would have been 
purely impossible, owing to the enfeeblement of nature 
by disease. Sight, hearing, even life itself, come to 
man through channels purely natural; but Nature 
never yet has made bread. She grows the corn, but 
there her part ends, while Science must do the rest, 
first reducing the corn to flour, then kneading it into 
dough, and by the burning fires of the oven transmuting 
the dough to bread. Why does Jesus here depart 
from His usual order, creating what neither nature nor 
science can produce alone, but which requires their con- 
current forces ? Let us see.- To Jesus these visible, 
tangible things were but the dead keys His hand 
touched, as He called forth some deeper, farther-off 
music, some spiritual truth that by any other method 
men would be slow to learn. Of what, then, is this 
bread of 'the desert the emblem ? St. John tells us 
that when the miracle occurred "the Passover was 
nigh at hand," and this time-mark helps to explain 
the overcrowding into the desert, for probably many 
of the five thousand were men who were now on their 
way to Jerusalem, and who had stayed at Capernaum 
and the neighbouring cities for the night This sup- 


position, too, is considerably strengthened by the words 
of the disciples, as they suggest that they should go 
and "lodge" in the neighbouring cities and villages, 
which word implies that they were not residents of that 
locality, but passing strangers. And as Jesus cannot 
now go up to Jerusalem to the feast, He gathers the 
shepherdless thousands about Him, and keeps a sort of 
Passover in the open guest-chamber of the mountain- 
side. That such was the thought of the Master, making 
it an anterior sacrament, is evident from the address 
Jesus gave the following day at Capernaum, in which 
He passes, by a natural transition, from the broken 
bread with which He satisfied their physical hunger 
to Himself as the Bread come down from heaven, the 
" living Bread " as He called it, which was His flesh. 
There is thus a Eucharistic meaning in the miracle of 
the loaves, and this northern hill signals in its subtle 
correspondences on to Jerusalem, to another hill, where 
His body was bruised and broken "for our iniquities," 
and His blood was poured out, a precious oblation for 
sin. And as that Blood was typified by the wine of 
the first miracle at Cana, so now Jesus completes the 
prophetic sacrament by the miraculous creation of 
bread from the five seminal loaves, bread which He 
Himself has consecrated to the holier use, as the visible 
emblem of that Body which was given for us, men, 
women, and children alike, even for a redeemed 
humanity. Cana and the desert-place thus draw near 
together, while both look across to Calvary; and as 
the Church keeps now her Eucharistic feast, taking 
from the one the consecrated bread, and from the other 
the consecrated wine, she shows forth the Lord's death 
"till He come." 



THE Transfiguration of Christ marks the culmina- 
ting point in the Divine life ; the few remaining 
months are a rapid descent into the Valley of Sacrifice 
and Death. The story is told by each of the three 
Synoptists, with an almost equal amount of detail, and 
all agree as to the time when it occurred ; for though 
St. Matthew and St. Mark make the interval six days, 
while St. Luke speaks of it as " about eight," there is 
no real disagreement ; St. Luke's reckoning is inclusive. 
As to the locality, too, they all agree, though in a 
certain indefinite way. St. Matthew and St. Mark 
leave it indeterminate, simply saying that it was " a 
high mountain," while St. Luke calls it " the mountain." 
Tradition has long localised the scene upon Mount 
Tabor, but evidently she has read off her bearings 
from her own fancies, rather than from the facts of the 
narrative. To say nothing of the distance of Mount 
Tabor from Csesarea Philippi which, though a diffi- 
culty, is not an insuperable one, since it might easily 
be covered in less than the six intervening days 
Tabor is but one of the group of heights which fringe 
the Plain of Esdraelon, and so one to which the 
definite article would not, and could not, be applied. 
Besides, Tabor now was crowned by a Roman fortress, 


and so could scarcely be said to be " apart " from the 
strifes and ways of men, while it stood within the 
borders of Galilee, whereas St. Mark, by implication, 
sets his " high mountain " outside the Galilean bounds 
(ix. 30). But if Tabor fails to meet the requirements 
of the narrative, Mount Hermon answers them exactly, 
throwing its spurs close up to Csesarea Philippi, while 
its snow-crowned peak shone out pure and white above 
the lesser heights of Galilee. 

It is not an unmeaning coincidence that each of the 
Evangelists should introduce his narrative with the same 
temporal word, " after." That word is something more 
than a connecting-link, a bridge thrown over a blank 
space of days ; it is rather, when taken in connection 
with the preceding narrative, the key which unlocks 
the whole meaning and mystery of the Transfiguration. 
" After these sayings," writes St. Luke. What sayings ? 
Let us go back a little, and see. Jesus had asked His 
disciples as to the drift of popular opinion about 
Himself, and had drawn from Peter the memorable 
confession that first Apostle's Creed " Thou art the 
Christ of God." Immediately, however, Jesus leads 
down their minds from these celestial heights to the 
lowest depths of degradation, dishonour, and death, as 
He says, <l The Son of man must suffer many things, 
and be rejected of the elders, chief priests, and scribes, 
and be killed, and the third day be raised up." Those 
words shattered their bright dream at once. Like 
some fearful nightmare, the foreshadow of the cross 
fell upon their hearts, filling them with fear, and gloom, 
and striking down hope, and courage, yea, even faith 
itself. It would almost seem as if the disciples were 
unnerved, paralyzed by the blow, and as if an atrophy 
had stolen over their hearts and lips alike ; for the 


next six days are one void of silence, without word or 
deed, as far as the records show. How shall their 
lost hope be recalled, or courage be revived? How 
shall they be taught that death does not end all 
that the enigma was true of Himself, as well as of 
them, that He shall find His life by losing it ? The 
Transfiguration is the answer. 

Taking with Him Peter, John, and James the three 
who shall yet be witnesses of His agony Jesus retires 
to the mountain height, probably intending, as our 
Evangelist indicates, to spend the night in prayer. 
Keeping the midnight watch was nothing new to these 
disciples ; it was their frequent experience upon the 
Galilean lake ; but now, left to the quiet of their own 
thoughts, and with none of the excitements of the 
spoil about them, they yield to the cravings of nature 
and fall asleep. Awaking, they find their Master still 
engaged in prayer, all oblivious of earthly hours, and 
as they watch He is transfigured before them. The 
fashion, or appearance, of His countenance, as St. Luke 
tersely puts it, " became another/' all suffused with a 
heavenly radiance, while His very garments became 
lustrous with a whiteness which was beyond the 
fuller's art and beyond the whiteness of the snow, and 
all iridescent, flashing and sparkling as if set with 
stars. Suddenly, ere their eyes have grown accustomed 
to the new splendours, two celestial visitants appear, 
wearing the glorious body of the heavenly life and 
conversing with Jesus. 

Such was the scene upon the " holy mount," which 
the Apostles could never forget, and, which St. Peter 
recalls with a lingering wonder and delight in the far- 
off after-years (2 Pet. i. 18). Can we push aside the 
outward draperies, and read the Divine thought and 


purpose that arc hidden within ? We think we may. 

I. We see the place and meaning of the Transfigura- 
tion in the life of Jesus. Hitherto the humanity of Jesus 
had been naturally and perfectly human ; for though 
heavenly signs have, as at the Advent and the Baptism, 
borne witness to its super-humanity, these signs have 
been temporary and external, shining or alighting upon 
it from without Now, however, the sign is from within. 
The brightness of the outer flesh is but the outshining 
of the inner glory. And what was that glory but the 
"glory of the Lord," a manifestation of the Deity, 
that fulness of the Godhead which dwelt within ? The 
faces of other sons of men have shone, as when Moses 
stepped downwards from the mount, or as Stephen 
looked upwards to the opened heavens ; but it was the 
shining of a reflected glory, like the sunlight upon the 
moon. But when the humanity of Jesus was thus 
transfigured it was a native glory, the inward radiance 
of the soul stealing through, and lighting up, the en- 
veloping globe of human flesh. It is easy to see why 
this celestial appearance should not be the normal 
manifestation of the Christ ; for had it been, He would 
no longer have been the " Son of man." Between 
Himself and the humanity He had come to redeem 
would have been a gulf wide and . profound, while 
the Fatherhood of God would have been a truth lying 
back in the vistas of the unknown, a truth unfelt ; for 
men only reach up to that Fatherhood through the 
Brotherhood of Christ. But if we ask why now, just 
for once, there should be this transfiguring of the Person 
of Jesus, the answer is not so evident. Godet has a 
suggestion which is as natural as it is beautiful. He 
represents the Transfiguration as the natural issue of 


a perfect, a sinless life, a life in which death should 
have no place, as it would have had no place in the 
life of unfallen man. Innocence, holiness, glory 
these would have been the successive steps connecting 
earth with heaven, an ever-upward path, across which 
death would not even have cast a shadow. Such 
would have been the path opened to the first Adam, 
had not Sin intervened, bringing Death as its wage 
and penalty. And now, as the Second Adam takes 
the place of the first, moving steadily along the path 
of obedience from which the first Adam swerved, 
should we not naturally look for that life to end in some 
translation or transfiguration, the body of the earthly 
life blossoming into the body of the heavenly ? and 
where else so appropriately as here, upon the "holy 
mount," when the spirits of the perfected come forth 
to meet Him, and the chariot of cloud is ready to convey 
Him to the heavens which are so near? It is thus 
something more than conjecture it is a probability that 
had the life of Jesus been by itself, detached from man- 
kind in general, the Transfiguration had been the mode 
and the beginning of the glorification. The way to the 
heavens, from which He was self-exiled, was open to 
Him from the mount of glory, but He preferred to pass 
up by the mount of passion and of sacrifice. The 
burden of the world's redemption is upon Him, and 
that eternal purpose leads Him down from the Trans- 
figuration glories, and onwards to a cross and grave. 
He chooses to die, with and for man, rather than to live 
and reign without man. 

But not only does the " holy mount " throw its light 
on what would have been the path of unfallen man, it 
gives us in prophecy a vision of the resurrection life. 
Compare the picture of the transfigured Christ, as 


drawn by the Synoptists, with the picture, drawn by 
John himself, of the Christ of the Exaltation, and how 
strikingly similar they are! (Rev. i. 13-17). In both 
descriptions we have an affluence of metaphor and 
simile, which affluence was itself but the stammering 
of our weak human speech, as it seeks to tell the 
unutterable. In both we have a whiteness like the 
snow, while to portray the countenance St. John re- 
peats almost verbatim St. Matthew's words, " His face 
did shine as the sun." Evidently the Christ of the 
Transfiguration and the Christ of the Exaltation are 
one and the same Person ; and why do we blame Peter 
for speaking in such random, delirious words upon the 
mount, when John, by the glory of that same vision, in 
Patmos, is stricken to the ground as if dead, not able 
to speak at all ? When Peter spoke, somewhat inco- 
herently, about the " three tabernacles," it was not, as 
some aver, the random speech of one who was but half 
awake, but of one whose reason was dazzled and con- 
fused with the blinding glory. And so the Transfigura- 
tion anticipates the Glorification, investing the sacred 
Person with those same robes of light and royalty He 
had laid aside for a time, but which He will shortly 
assume again the habiliments of an eternal re- 

2. Again, the holy mount shows us the place of 
death in the life of man. We read, " There talked with 
Him two men, which were Moses and Elijah ; " and as 
if the Evangelist would emphasize the fact that it was 
no apparition, existing only in their heated imagination, 
he repeats the statement (ver. 35) that they were " two 
men." 1 Strange gathering Moses, Elias, and Christ ! 
the Law in the person of Moses, the Prophets in the 
person of Elias, both doing homage to the Christ, who 


was Himself the fulfilment of prophecy and law. But 
what the Evangelist seems to note particularly is the 
humanness of the two celestials. Though the earthly 
life of each ended in an abrupt, unearthly way, the one 
having a translation, the other a Divine interment 
(whatever that may mean), they have both been resi- 
dents of the heavenly world for centuries. But as they 
appear to-day " in glory," that is, with the glorified 
body of the heavenly life, outwardly, visibly, their 
bodies are still human. There is nothing about their 
form and build that is grotesque, or even unearthly. 
They have not even the traditional but fictitious wings 
with which poetry is wont to set off the inhabitants of 
the sky. They are still " men," with bodies resembling, 
both in size and form, the old body of earth. But if the 
appearance of these " men " reminds us of earth, if we 
wait awhile, we see that their natures are very unearthly, 
not unnatural so much as supernatural. They glide 
down through the air with the ease of a bird and the 
swiftness of light, and when the interview ends, and 
they go their separate ways, these heavenly "men" 
gather up their robes and vanish, strangely and sud- 
denly as they came. And yet they can make use of 
earthly supports, even the grosser forms of matter, 
planting their feet upon the grass as naturally as 
when Moses climbed up Pisgah or as Elijah stood in 
Horeb's cave. 

And not only do the bodies of these celestials retain 
still the image of the earthly life, but the bent of their 
minds is the same, the set and drift of their thoughts 
following the old directions. The earthly lives of Moses 
and Elias had been spent in different lands, in different 
times; five hundred eventful years pushed them far 
apart; but their mission ha$ been one. Both were 


prophets of the Highest, the one bringing God's law 
down to the people, the other leading a lapsed people 
back and up to God's law. Yes, and they are prophets 
still, but with a nearer vision now. No longer do they 
gaze through the crimson lenses of the sacrificial 
blood, beholding the Promised One afar off. They 
have read the Divine thought and purpose of redemp- 
tion ; they are initiated into its mysteries ; and now 
that the cross is close at hand, they come to bring 
to the world's Saviour their heavenly greetings, and to 
invest Him, by anticipation, with robes of glory, soon 
to be His for evermore. 

Such is the apocalypse of the holy mount. The 
veil which hides from our dull eye of sense the here- 
after was lifted up. The heavens were opened to them, 
no longer far away beyond the cold stars, but near 
them, touching them on every side. They saw the 
saints of other days interesting themselves in earthly 
events in one event at least, and speaking of that 
death Miich they mourned and feared, calmly, as a 
thing expected and desired, but calling it by its new 
and softened name, a " departure," an "exodus." And 
as they see the past centuries saluting Him whom they 
have learned to call the Christ, " the Son of God," as 
the truth of immortality is borne in upon them, not as 
a vague conception of the mind, but by oral and ocular 
demonstration, would they not see the shadow of the 
coming death in a different light ? would not the painful 
pressure upon their spirits be eased somewhat, if not, 
indeed, entirely removed ? and 

" The Apostles 7 heart of rock 
Be nerved against temptation's shock " ? 

Would they not more patiently endure, now that they 


had become apostles of the Invisible, seers of the 
Unseen ? 

But if the glory of the holy mount sets in a fairer 
light the cross and grave of Christ, may we not throw 
from the mirror of our thought some of its light upon 
our lowlier graves ? What is death, after all, but the 
transition into life ? Retaining its earthly accent, we 
call it a " decease ; " but that is true only of the corporeal 
nature, that body of " flesh and blood " which cannot 
inherit the higher kingdom of glory to which we pass. 
There is no break in the continuity of the soul's exis- 
tence, not even one parenthetic hour. When He who 
was the Resurrection and the Life said, " To-day shalt 
thou be with Me in paradise/ 1 that word passed on a 
forgiven soul directly to a state of conscious blessed- 
ness. From "the azure deep of air" does the eagle 
look regretfully upon the eyrie of its crag, where it lay 
in its unfledged weakness ? or does it mourn the broken 
shell from which its young life emerged? And why 
should we mourn, or weep with unrestrained tears, 
when the shell is broken thafthe freed spirit may soar 
up to the regions of the blessed, and range the eterni- 
ties of God ? "Paganism closed the story of human 
life with an interrogation-point, and sought to fill up 
with guesses the blank she did not know. Christianity 
speaks with clearer voice ; hers is " a sure and certain 
hope," for He who "hath abolished death" hath 
" brought life and immortality to light." Earth's exodus 
is heaven's genesis, and what we call the end celestials 
call the beginning. 

And not only does the mount speak of the certainties 
of the after-life, it gives, in a binocular vision, the 
likeness of the resurrection body, answering, in part, 
the standing question, " How are the dead raised up ? " 



The body of the heavenly life must have some corre- 
spondence with, and resemblance to, the body of our 
earthly life. It will, in a sense, grow out of it. It 
will not be something entirely new, but the old refined, 
spiritualized, the dross and earthliness all removed, 
the marks of care, and pain, and sin all wiped out. ^And 
more, the Transfiguration mount gives us indubitable 
proof that heaven and earth lie, virtually, close together, 
and that the so-called " departed" are not entirely 
severed from earthly things ; they can still read the 
shadows upon earthly dials, and hear the strike of 
earthly hours. They are not so absorbed and lost in 
the new glories as to take no note of earthly events ; 
nor are they restrained from visiting, at permitted 
times, the earth they have not wholly left ; for as heaven 
was theirs, when on earth, in hope and anticipation, 
so now, in heaven, earth is theirs in thought and 
memory. They have still interests here, associations 
they cannot forget, friends who are still beloved, and 
harvests of influence they still may reap. With the 
absurdities and follies of so-called Spiritualism we have 
no sort of sympathy ; they are the vagaries of weak 
minds ; but even their eccentricities and excesses shall 
not be allowed to rob us of what is a truly Christian 
hope, that they who cared for us on earth care for us 
still, and that they who loved and prayed for us below 
love us none the less, and pray for us none the less 
frequently, now that the conflict with them is oyer, 
and the eternal rest begu,n. And why may &ot their 
spirits touch ours, influencing our mind and heart, even 
when ^e are pot conscious whence those influences 
come ? for are they not, with the angels, " ministering 
spirits, sent forth to do service for the sake of them 
that shall inherit salvation " ? The Mount of Trans- 


figuration does indeed stand " apart," for on its summit 
the paths of the celestials and of the terrestrials meet 
and merge; and it is "high" indeed, for it touches 

3. Again, the holy mount shows us the place of 
death in the life of Jesus. How long the vision lasted 
we cannot tell, but in all probability the interview was 
but brief. What supreme moments they were ! and 
what a rush of tumultuous thoughts, we may suppose, 
would fill the minds of the two saints, as they stand 
again on the familiar earth ! But listen ! They speak 
no word to revive the old-time memories ; they bring 
no tidings of the heavenly world ; they do not even 
ask, as they well might, the thousand questions con- 
cerning His life and ministry. They think, they speak, 
of one thing only, the " decease which He was about 
to accomplish at Jerusalem." Here, then, we see the 
drift of heavenly minds, and here we learn a truth 
which is wonderfully true, that the death of Jesus, the 
cross of Jesus, was the one central thought of heaven, 
as it is the one central hope of earth. But how can it 
be such if the life of Jesus is all we need, and if the 
death is but an ordinary death, an appendix, necessary 
indeed, but unimportant ? Such is the belief of some, 
but such certainly is not the teaching of this narrative, 
nor of the other Scriptures. Heaven sets the cross of 
Jesus " in the midst," the one central fact of history. 
He was born that He might die ; He lived that He 
might die. All the lines of His human life converge 
upon Calvary, as He Himself said, "For unto this 
hour came I into the world." And why is that death 
so all-important, bending towards its cross all the lines 
of Scripture, as it how monopolizes the speech of these 
two celestials? Why? There is but one answer 


which is satisfactory, the answer St. Peter himself 
gives : il His own Self bare our sins in His body upon 
the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto 
righteousness" (i Pet. ii. 24). And so the Mount of 
Transfiguration looks towards the Mount of Sacrifice. 
It lights up Calvary, and lays a wreath of glory upon 
the cross. 

We need not speak again of Peter's random words, 
as he seeks to detain the celestial visitants. He would 
fain prolong what to him is a Feast of Tabernacles, 
and he suggests the building of three booths upon 
the mountain slope " one for Thee," putting his Lord 
first, "and one for Moses, and one for Elias." He 
makes no mention of himself or of his companions. 
He is content to remain outside, so that he may only 
be near, as it were on the fringe of the transfiguring 
glories. But what a strange request ! what wander- 
ing, delirious words, almost enough to make celestials 
smile f Well might the Evangelist excuse Peter's 
random words by saying, " Not knowing what he said." 
But if Peter gets no answer to his request, and if he is 
not permitted to build the tabernacles, Heaven spreads 
over the group its canopy of cloud, that Shekinah- 
cloud whose very shadow was brightness ; while once 
again, as at the Baptism, a Voice speaks out of the 
cloud, the voice of the Father : " This is My Son, My 
Chosen ; hear ye Him." And so the mountain pageant 
fades ; for when the cloud has passed away Moses and 
Elias have disappeared, "Jesus only" is left with the 
three disciples. Then they retrace their .steps down 
the mountain side, the three carrying in their heart a 
precious memory, the strains of a lingering music, 
which they only put into words when the Son of man 
is risen from the dead ; while Jesus turns, not relw- 


tantly, from the opened door and the welcome of 
Heaven, to make an atonement upon Calvary, and 
through the veil of His rent flesh to make a way for 
sinful man even into the Holiest. 


LUKE x. 25-37. 

IT would scarcely have accorded with the traditions 
of human nature had the teachers of religion looked 
favourably upon Jesus. Stepping, as He did, within 
their domain, without any human ordination or scho- 
lastic authority, they naturally resented the intrusion, 
and when the teaching of the new Rabbi so distinctly 
contravened their own interpretation of the law their 
curiosity deepened into jealousy, and curdled at last 
into a virulent hate. The ecclesiastical atmosphere 
was charged with electricity, but it only manifested 
itself at first in the harmless play of summer lightning, 
the cross-fire of half-earnest and half-captious ques- 
tions; later it was the forked lightning that struck 
him down into a grave. 

We have no means of localizing, either in point of 
time or place, the incident here recorded by our Evan- 
gelist, and which, by the way, only St. Luke mentions. 
It stands by itself, bearing in its dependent parable of 
the Good Samaritan an exquisite and perfect flower, 
from whose deep cup has dropped the very nectar of 
the gods. 

It was probably during one of His public discourses 
that a "certain lawyer," or scribe for the two titles 

x. 25-37-] THE GOOD SAMARITAN. 295 

are used interchangeably "stood up and tempted 
Him." He sought to prove Him by questions, as the 
word means here, hoping to entrap Jesus amid the 
vagaries of Rabbinical tradition. " Teacher," said he, 
hiding his sinister motive behind a veil of courtesy and 
apparent candour, " what shall I do to inherit eternal 
life?" Had the question been sincere, Jesus would 
probably have given a direct answer ; but reading the 
under-current of his thought, which moved transversely to 
the surface-current of his speech, Jesus simply answered 
his question by asking another : " What is written in the 
Law ? How readest thou ? " With a readiness which 
implied a perfect familiarity with the Law, he replied, 
" Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, 
and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with 
all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." Some 
expositors have thought that the Evangelist here gives 
the summary of what was a lengthened conversation, 
and that Jesus Himself led the mind of the lawyer to 
join together these detached portions of Scripture one 
from Deuteronomy vi. 5, and the other from Leviticus 
xix. 1 8. It is true there is a striking resemblance between 
the answer of the lawyer and the atlswer Jesus Himself 
gave subsequently to a similar question (Mark xii. 30, 
31); but there is no necessity for us to apologize for 
the resemblance, as if it were improbable and unnatural. 
The fact is, as the narrative of Mark xii. plainly indi- 
cates, that these two sentences were held in general 
consent as the epitome of the Law, its first and its 
second commandment. Even the scribfe assents to this 
as an axiomatic truth he has no wish to challenge. It 
will be observed that a fourth term is added to the three 
of the original, possibly on account of the Septuagint 
rendering, which translated the Hebrew u heart" by 


"mind." Godet suggests that since the term " heart" 
is the most general term, denoting "in Scripture the 
central focus from which all the rays of the moral life 
go forth/' that it stands in apposition to the other three, 
the one in its three particulars. This, which is the most 
natural interpretation, would refer the "mind" to the 
intellectual faculties, the " soul " to the emotional facul- 
ties, the sensibilities, and the " might " to the will, which 
rules all force ; while by the " heart " is meant the unit, 
the "centred self," into which the others merge, and of 
which they form a part. 

Jesus commended him for his answer : ft Thou hast 
answered right : this do, and thou shalt live " words 
which brushed away completely the Hebraic figment of 
inherited life. That life was not something that should 
be reached by processes of loving. The life should 
precede the love, and should give birth to it : the love 
should grow out of the life, its blossoming flower. 

Having the tables so turned upom himself, and 
wishing to "justify," or to put himself right, the 
stranger asks still another question : " And who is my 
neighbour ? " doubtless hoping to cover his retreat in 
the smoke of a burning question. To our minds, made 
familiar with the thought of humanity, it seems as if a 
question so simple scarcely deserved such an elaborate 
answer as Jesus gave to it. But the thought of humanity 
had not yet possessed the world; indeed, it had only 
just come to earth, to be spoken by, and incarnate 
in, Him who was the Son of man. To the Jew the 
question of the lawyer was a most important one. The 
word " neighbour " could be spoken in a breath ; but 
unwind that word, and it measures off the whole of our 
earthly life, it covers all our practical, every-day duties. 
It ran through the pages of the Law, the ark in which 

x. 25-37-] THE GOOD SAMARITAN. 297 

the Golden Rule was hidden ; or like a silent angel, it 
flashed its sword across life's forbidden paths. But if 
the Jew could not erase this broad word from the pages 
of the Law, he could narrow and emasculate its meaning 
by an interpretation of his own. And this they had 
done, making this Divine word almost of none effect by 
their tradition. To the Jewish mind " neighbour " was 
simply " Jew " spelt large. The only neighbourhood 
they recognized was the narrow neighbourhood of 
Hebrew speech and Hebrew sympathies. The Hebrew 
mind was isolated as their land, and all who could not 
frame their Shibboleths were barbarians, Gentiles, whom 
they were at perfect liberty to spoil, as with anathe- 
mas and swords they chased them over their Jordans. 
Jesus, however, is on the alert; and how wisely He 
answers 1 He does not declaim against the narrowness 
of Hebrew thought ; He utters no denunciatory word 
against their proud and false exclusiveness. He quietly 
unfolds the word, spreading it out into an exquisite 
parable, that all coming times may see how beautiful, 
how Divine the word " neighbour " is. 

He said, "A certain man was going down from 
Jerusalem to Jericho ; and he fell among robbers, 
which both stripped him, and beat him, and departed, 
leaving him half dead." The parables of Jesus, though 
drawn from real life, had no local colouring. They 
grouped themselves around some well-known fact of 
nature, or some general custom of social life ; and so 
their spirit was national or cosmopolitan, rather than 
local. Here, however, Jesus departs from His usual 
manner, giving to His parable a local habitation. It is 
the road which led steeply down from Jerusalem to 
Jericho, and which for centuries has been so infested 
with robbers or bandits as to earn for itself the darkly 


ominous name of "the Bloody Way/ 1 Possibly that 
name itself is an outgrowth from the parable; but whether 
so or not, it is scarcely to be supposed that it had so 
evil a character in the days of Christ. As Jericho then 
was a populous city, and intimately connected with 
Jerusalem in its social and business life, the road would 
be much frequented. Indeed, the parable indicates as 
much; for Jesus, whose words were never untrue to 
nature or to history, represents His three travellers as 
all journeying singly ; while the khan or " inn " shows, 
in its reflection, a constant stream of travel. Our 
anonymous traveller, however, does not find it so safe 
as he had anticipated. Attacked, in one of its dusky 
ravines, by a band of brigands, tkey strip him of his 
clothing, with whatever the girdle-purse might contain, 
and beating him out of sheer devilry, they leave him by 
the road-side, unable to walk, unable even to rise, a 
living-dying man. 

"And by chance, a certain priest was going down 
that way ; and when he saw him he passed by on the 
other side. And in like manner a Levite also, when 
he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the 
other side." As in a tableaux vivants, Jesus shows us 
the two ecclesiastics, who come in sight in the happy, 
coincidental way that Romance so delights in. They 
had probably just completed their " course " of Temple 
service, and were now going down to Jericho, which 
was a favourite residence of the priests, for the somewhat 
long interval their sacred duties allowed them. They 
had, therefore, no pressure of business upon them; 
indeed, the verb would almost imply that the priest 
was walking leisurely along. But they bring no help 
to the wounded man. Directly they see him, instead 
of being drawn to hitn by the attractions of sympathy, 

x. 25-37-] THE GOOD SAMARITAN. 299 

something, either the shock or the fright, acts upon 
them as a centrifugal force, and sends them describing 
an arc of a circle around that centre of groans and 
blood. At any rate they " passed by on the other 
side," leaving behind them neither deed nor word of 
mercy, but leaving behind them a shadow of them- 
selves which, while time itself lasts, will be vivid, cold, 
and repelling. It is just possible, however, that they 
do not deserve all the unmeasured censure which the 
critics and the centuries have given, and are still likely 
to give. It is very easy for us to condemn their action 
as selfish, heartless ; but let us put ourselves in their 
place, alone in the lonely pass, with this proof of an 
imminent danger sprung suddenly upon us, and it is 
possible that we ourselves should not have been quite 
so brave as by our safe firesides we imagine ourselves 
to be. The fact is it needed something more than 
sympathy to make them turn aside and befriend the 
wounded man ; it needed physical courage, and that 
of the highest kind, and this wanting, sympathy itself 
would not be sufficient. The heart might long to help, 
even when the feet were hastening away. A sudden 
inrush of fear, even of vague alarm, will sometimes 
drive us contrary to the drift of our sympathies, just 
as our feet are lifted and we ourgelves carried onwards 
by a surging crowd. 

Whether this be a correct interpretation of their con- 
duct or not, it certainly harmonizes with the general 
attitude of Jesus towards the priesthood. The chief 
priests were always and bitterly hostile, but we have 
reasonable ground for supposing that the priests, as 
a body, looked favouringly upon Jesus. The .bolts of 
terrible "woes" are hurled against Pharisees and 
scribes, yet Jesus does not condemn the priests in a 


single word ; while in that aftermath of the Pentecost 
the Temple courts yielded the richest harvests, as l< a 
great company of the priests were obedient to the 
faith." If, then, Jesus now holds up the priesthood to 
execration, setting these ecclesiastics in the pillory of 
His parable, that the coming centuries may throw sharp 
words at them, it is certainly an exceptional mood. 
The sweet silence has curdled into acrid speech. But 
even here Jesus does not condemn, except, as it would 
seem, by implication, the conduct of the priest and 
Levite. They come into the parable rather as acces- 
sories, and Jesus makes use of them as a foil, to 
throw out into bolder relief the central figure, which 
is the Samaritan, and so to emphasize His central truth, 
which is the real answer to the lawyer's question, that 
" neighbour " is too broad, and too human, a word to 
be cut off and deliminated by any boundaries of race. 

But in thus casting a mantle of charity around 
our priest and Levite, we must admit that the cha- 
racter is sometimes true even down to recent days. 
Ecclesiasticism and religion, alas ! are not always 
synonyms. Revolted Israel sins and sacrifices by 
turns, and seeking to keep the balance in equal poise, 
she puts over against her multitude of sins her multi- 
tude of sacrifices. Religiousness may be at times but 
a cloak for moral laxity, and to some rite is more than 
right. There are those, alas ! to-day, who wear the 
livery of the Temple, to whom religion is a routine 
mechanism of dead things, rather than the commerce 
of living hearts, who open with hireling hand the 
Temple gates, who chant with hireling lips how " His 
mercy endureth for ever," and then step down from 
their sacred Jerusalem, to toss justice and mercy to the 
winds, as they defraud the widow and oppress the poor. 

x. 25-37-] THE GOOD SAMARITAN. 301 

" But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came 
where he was : and when he saw him, he was moved 
with compassion, and came to him, and bound up his 
wounds, pouring on them oil and wine ; and he set him 
on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took 
care of him." At first sight it would appear as if Jesus 
had weakened the narrative by a topographical in- 
accuracy, as if He had gone out of His way to place a 
Samaritan on the road to Jericho, which was altogether 
out of the line of Samaritan travel. But it is a deliber- 
ate purpose on the part of Jesus, and not a lapsus 
lingu&j that introduces this Samaritan ; for this is the 
gist of the whole parable. The man who had fallen 
among the robbers was doubtless a Jew ; for had it 
been otherwise, the fact would have been stated. Now, 
there was no question as to whether the word " neigh- 
bour " embraced their fellow-countrymen ; the question 
was whether it passed beyond their national bounds, 
opening up lines of duty across the outlying world. 
It is therefore almost a necessity that the one who 
teaches this lesson should be himself an alien, a 
foreigner, and Jesus chooses the Samaritan as being of 
a race against which Jewish antipathies were especially 
strong, but for which He Himself had a special regard 
and warmest sympathy. Though occupying adjacent 
territory, the Jews and the Samaritans practically were 
far apart, antipodal races we might almost call them. 
Between them lay a wide and deep chasm that trade 
even could not bridge, and across which the courtesies 
and sympathies of life never passed. "The Jews have 
no dealings with the Samaritans," said the flippant 
woman of Samaria, as she voiced a jealousy and hatred 
which were as mutual as they were deep. But here, 
in this ideal Samaritan, is a noble exception. Though 


belonging to a lowly and obscure race, his thoughts are 
high. The ear of his soul has so caught the rhythm of 
Divine harmonies that it does not hear longer the little 
lisping Shibboleths of earthly speech; and while the sym- 
pathies of smaller hearts flow like a stream down in their 
well-defined and accustomed channel, seldom knowing 
any overflow, save in some rare freshet of impulse and 
of feeling, the sympathies of the Samaritan moved out- 
ward like the currents of the wind, sweeping across all 
chasms and over all mountain heights of division, bear- 
ing their clouds of blessing anywhither as the need 
required. It makes n6 difference to him that the fallen 
man is of an alien race. He is a man, and that is 
enough; and he is down, and must be raised; he is 
in need, and must be helped. The priest and Levite 
thought first and most of themselves, and giving to 
the man but a brief and scared look, they passed on 
with a quickened pace. Not so with the Samaritan; 
he loses all thought of himself, and is perfectly oblivious 
to the danger he himself may be running. Upon his 
great soul he feels the pressure of this " must ; " it runs 
along the tightened muscles of his arm, as he checks 
his steed. He himself comes down, dismounting, that 
he may help the man to rise. He opens his flask and 
puts his wine to the lips, tfrat their groans may cease, 
or that they may be soothed down into inarticulate 
speech. The oil he has brought for his own food he 
pours upon the wounds, and when the man has suf- 
ficiently recover^4 he lifts him upon, his own beast and 
takes him to the inn. Nor is tin's enough for his great 
heart, but continuing ^his journey on the morrow, he 
first arranges with his host that the man shall Jbe well 
carecj for, giving him two pence, which was the two 
days' wages of a labouring man, at the same time 

x. 25-37-] THE GOQD SAMARITAN. 303 

telling him that he must not limit his attentions to the 
sum he pays in advance, but that if anything more 
should be needed he would pay the balance on his 
return. We do not read whether it was needed or not, 
for the Samaritan, mounting his steed, passes out of 
our hearing and out of our sight. Not quite out of 
our hearing, however, for Heaven has caught his gentle, 
loving words, and hidden them within this parable, that 
all coming times may listen to their music ; nor out of 
our sight either, for his photograph was caught in the 
sunlight of the Master's speech ; and as we turn over 
the pages of Inspiration there is no picture more beauti- 
ful than, that of the nameless Samaritan, whom all the 
world calls " the Good," the man who knew so much 
better than his age what humanity and mercy meant 

In the new light the lawyer can answer his own ques- 
tion npw, and he does ; for when Jesus asks, " Which 
of these three, thinkest thou, proved neighbour unto 
him that fell among the robbers ? " he replies, with no 
hesitation, but with a lingering prejudice that does not 
care to pronounce the, to him, outlandish name, " He 
that showed mercy on him." The lesson is learned, 
the lesspn of humanity, for the whole parable is but 
art amplification of the Golden Rule, and Jesus dis- 
misses the subject and the scholar with the personal 
application, which is but a corollary of the proposition 
He ha,s demonstrated, " Go thou and do likewise." Go 
and 4o to others -as you would have them do to 
you, were the circumstances reversed and your places 
changed . Read off your duty, not frpm your own low 
standpoint merely, but in a binocular vision, as yqu put 
yourself in his, place ; so will you jfind that the line of 
duty ?ind the line of beauty are on,e. 

The practical lessons of the parable are easy to 


trace, as they are of universal application. The first 
lesson it teaches is the lesson of humanity, the neigh- 
bourhood and brotherhood of man. It is a convenience, 
and perhaps a necessity, of human life, that the great 
mass of humanity should be broken up into fragments, 
sections, with differing customs, languages, and names. 
It gives to the world the stimulus of competition and 
helpful rivalries. But these distinctions are superficial, 
temporary, and beneath this diversity of speech and 
thought there is the deeper unity of soul We empha- 
size our differences ; we pride ourselves upon them ; 
but how little does Heaven make of them ! Heaven 
does not even see them. Our national boundaries may 
climb up over the Alps, but they cannot touch the sky. 
Those skies look down and smile on all alike, Divinely 
impartial in their gifts of beauty and of light. And 
how little of the provincial, or even national, there was 
about Jesus ! Though He kept Himself almost entirely 
within the borders of the Holy Land, never going far 
from His central pivot, which was Jerusalem, and its 
cross, yet He belonged to the world, as the world 
belonged to Him. He called Himself the Son of man, 
at once humanity's flower, and humanity's Son and 
Saviour. And as over the cradle of the Son of man the 
far East and the far West together leaned, so around 
His cross was the meeting-place of the races. The 
three chief languages inscribed upon it proclaimed His 
royalty, while the cross itself, on which the Sacrifice 
for humanity was to be offered, was itself the gift of 
humanity at large, as Asia provided it, and Europe 
prepared it, and Africa, in the person of the Cyrenean, 
bore it. In the mind of Jesus, as in the purpose of 
God, humanity was not a group of fractions, but a 
unit one and indivisible, made of one blood, and by 

x. 25-37-J THE GOOD S4MARITAN. 305 

one Blood redeemed. In the heart of Jesus there was 
the " enthusiasm of humanity," all-absorbing and com- 
plete, and that enthusiasm takes possession of us, a 
new force generated in our lives, as we approach in 
spirit the great Ideal Man. 

The second lesson of the parable is the lesson of 
mercy, the beauty of self-sacrifice. It was because the 
Samaritan forgot himself that all the world has remem- 
bered and applauded him. It is because of his stoop of 
self-renouncing love that his character is so exalted, his 
memory so dear, and that his very name, which is a 
title without a name, floats down the ages like a sweet 
song. " Go and do thou likewise " is the Master's 
word to us. Discipline your heart that you may see 
in man everywhere a brother, whose keeper you are. 
Let fraternity be, not a theory only, but a realized fact, 
and then a factor of your life. Train your eye to 
watch for others' needs, to read another's woe. Train 
your soul to sympathy, and your hand to helpfulness ; 
for in our world there is room enough for both. Beth- 
esda's porches stretch far as our eye can reach, all 
crowded, too, with the sorrowing, the sick, and the sad, 
thick enough indeed, but not so close as that an angeFs 
foot may not step between them, and not so sad but 
an angel's voice may soothe and cheer. He who lifts 
another's load, who soothes another's smart, who 
brightens a life that else would be dark, who puts a 
music within a brother's soul, though it be only for a 
passing moment, wakes even a sweeter music within 
his own, for he enters on earth into his Master's joy, 
the joy of a redeeming, self-sacrificing love. 



LUKE x. 38-42. 

AT first sight it appears as if our Evangelist had 
departed from the orderly arrangement of which 
he speaks in his prelude, in thus linking this domestic 
scene of Judaea with His northern Galilean journey, 
and to the casual glance this home-flower does certainly 
seem an exotic in this garden of the Lord. The 
strangeness, the out-of-placeness, however, vanishes 
entirely upon a nearer f closer view. If, as is probable, 
the parable of the Good Samaritan was spoken during 
that northward journey, its scene lies away in Judaea, 
in the dangerous road that sweeps down from Jerusalem 
to Jericho. Now, this road to Jericho lay through the 
village of Bethany, and in the Evangelist's mind the 
two places are intimately connected, as we see (chap, 
xix. vv. I, 29) ; so that the idyll of Bethany would follow 
the parable of the Good Samaritan with a certain 
naturalness, the one recalling the other by the simple 
association of ideas. Then, too, it harmonizes so 
thoroughly with its context, as it comes between a 
parable on works and a chapter on prayer. IH the one, 
man is the doer, heart and hand going out in the 
beautiful ministries of love ; in the other, man is the 
receiver, waiting upon God, opening hand and heart 
for the inflow of Divine grace. In one it is Love in 

x. 38-42.] THE TWO SISTERS. 307 

action that we see ; in the other it is Love at rest, at 
rest from activities of her own, in quest of further good. 
This is exactly the picture our Evangelist draws of 
the two sisters ; and which might have served as a 
parable had it not been so plainly taken from real 
life. Perhaps, too, another consideration influenced 
the Evangelist, and one that is suggested by the studied 
vagueness of the narrative. He gives no clue as to 
where the little incident occurred, for the " certain 
village " might be equally appropriate in Samaria 
or Judaea ; while the two names, Martha and Mary, 
apart from the corroboration of St. John's Gospel, 
would not enable us to localize the scene. It is evident 
that St. Luke wished to throw around them a sort of 
incognito, probably because they were still living when 
he wrote, and too great publicity might subject them 
to inconvenience, or even to something more. And 
so St. Luke considerately masks the picture, shutting 
off the background of locality, while St. John, who 
writes at a later date, when Jerusalem has fallen, and 
who is under no such obligation of reserve, fi es the 
scene precisely; for there can be no doubt that the 
Mary and Martha of his Gospel, of Bethany, are the 
Martha and Mary of St. Luke ; their very characters, 
as well as names, are identical. 

It was in one of His journeys to the south, though 
we have no means of telling which, that He came to 
Bethany, a small village on the eastern slope of OMvet, 
and about three-quarters of an hour from Jerusalem. 
There are several indications in the Gospels that this 
was a favourite resort of Jesus during His Judaean 
ministry (Matt, xxi I ; John viii. i) ; and it is some- 
what singular that foe- only* nights that we read He 
spent in Jerusalem were the night in the garden and 


the two nights He slept in its grave. He preferred 
the quiet haven of Bethany; and though we cannot 
with absolute certainty recognize the village home 
where Jesus had such frequent welcome, yet throwing 
the side-light of John xi. 5 upon the haze, it seems 
in part to lift ; for the deep affection Jesus had for the 
three implies a close and ripened intimacy. 

St. John, in his allusions to the family, makes Mary 
prominent, giving precedence to her name, as he calls 
Bethany " the village of Mary and her sister Martha " 
(John xi. i). St. Luke, however, makes Martha the 
central figure of his picture, while Mary is set back in 
the shade, or rather in the sunshine of that Presence 
which was and is the Light of the world. It was, 
" Martha received Him into her house." She was the 
recognized head of the family, " the lady " in fact, 
as well as by the implication of her name, which was 
the native equivalent of " lady." It wag she who gave 
the invitation to the Master, and on her devolved all 
the care of the entertainment, the preparation of the 
feast, and the reception of the guests ; for though the 
change of pronoun in ver. 38 from "they" to "Him" 
would lead us to suppose that the disciples had gone 
another way, and were not with Him now, still the 
"much serving" would show that it was a special 
occasion, and that others had been invited to meet 

It is a significant coincidence that St. Jokn, speaking 
(xii. 2) of another supper at Bethany, in the house of 
Simon, states that Martha "served," using the same 
word that Jesus addressed to her in the narrative of 
St. Luke. Evidently Martha was a "server." This 
was her forte, so much so that her services were in 
requisition outside her own house. Hers was a culinary 

x. 38-42.] THE TWO SISTERS. 


skill, and she delighted with her sleight of hand to 
effect all sorts of transformations, as, conjuring with 
her fire, she called forth the pleasures and harmonies 
of taste. In this case, however, she overdid it ; she 
went beyond her strength. Perhaps her guests out- 
numbered her invitations, or something unforeseen had 
upset her plans, so that some of the viands were 
belated. At any rate, she was cumbered, distracted, 
" put about " as our modern colloquialism would have 
it. Perhaps we might say she was " put out " as well, 
for we can certainly detect a trace of irritability both 
in her manner and in her speech. She breaks in 
suddenly among the guests (the aorist participle gives 
the rustle of a quick movement), and in the hearing of 
them all she says to Jesus, " Lord, dost Thou not care 
that my sister did leave me to serve alone ? bid her 
therefore that she help me." Her tone is sharp, 
querulous, and her words send a deep chill across the 
table, as when a sea-fret drifts coldly inland. If Mary 
was in the wrong thus to sit at the feet of Jesus, Martha 
certainly was not in the right. There was no occasion 
to give this public reprimand, this round-hand rebuke. 
She might have come and secretly called her, as she 
did afterwards, on the day of their sorrow, and probably 
Mary would have risen as quickly now as then. But 
Martha is overweighted, ruffled ; her feelings get the 
better of her judgment, and she speaks, out of the impati- 
ence of her heart, words she never would have spoken had 
she but known that Inspiration would keep their echoes 
reverberating down all the years of time. And besides, 
her words were somewhat lacking in respect to the 
Master. True, she addresses Him as " Lord ;" but 
having done this, she goes off into an interrogative 
with an implied censure in it, and closes with an im- 


perative, which, to say the least, was not becoming, 
while all through an undue emphasis is laid upon the 
first personal pronoun, the "me " of her aggrieved self. 
Turning to the other sister, we find a striking con- 
trast, for Mary, as our Evangelist puts it, " also sat 
at the Lord's feet, and heard His word." This does 
not imply any forwardness on her part, or any desire 
to make herself conspicuous ; the whole drift of her 
nature was in the opposite direction. Sitting "at His 
feet " now that they were reclining at the table, meant 
sitting behind Him, alone amid the company, and 
screened from their too-curious gaze by Him who drew 
all eyes to Himself. Nor does she break through her 
womanly reserve to take part in the conversation ; she 
simply "heard His word;" or "she kept listening/' 
as the imperfect tense denotes. She put herself in the 
listening attitude, content to be in the shadow, outside 
the charmed circle, if she only might hear Him speak, 
whose words fell like a rain of music upon her soul 
Her sister chided her for this, and the large family of 
modern Marthas for feminine sentiment is almost 
entirely on Martha's side blame her severely, for 
what they call the selfishness of her conduct, seeking 
her own enjoyment, even though others must pay the 
price of it. But was Mary so utterly selfish ? and did 
she sacrifice duty to gratify her inclination ? Not at 
all, and certainly not to the extent our Marthas would 
have us believe. Mary had assisted in the preparations 
and the reception, as the " also " of ver. 39 shows ; 
while Martha's own words, " My sister did leave me 
to serve alone," themselves imply that Mary had shared 
the labours of the entertainment before taking her 
place at the feet of Jesus. The probability is that she 
had completed her task; and now that He who spake 

x, 38-42.3 THE TWO SISTERS. 311 

as never man spake before was conversing with the 
guests, she could not forego the privilege of listening 
to the voice she might not hear again. 

It is to Jesus, however, that we must go with our 
rivalry of claims. He is our Court of Equity. His 
estimate of character was never at fault. He looked 
at the essences of things, the soul of things, and not 
to the outward wrappings* of circumstance, and He 
read that palimpsest of motive, the underlying thought, 
more easily than others could read the outward act. 
And certainly Jesus had no apology for selfishness ; His 
whole life was one war against it, and against sin, 
which is but selfishness ripened. But how does Jesus 
adjust this sisterly difference ? Does He dismiss the 
listener, and send her back to an unfinished task? 
Does He pass on to her Martha's warm reproof? Not 
at all ; but He gently reproves the elder sister. 
" Martha, Martha," He said, as if her mind had 
wandered, and the iteration was necessary to call her 
to herself, " thou art anxious and troubled about many 
things : but one thing is needful : for Mary hath chosen 
the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." 

It is easy to see from this where Jesus thought the 
blame should rest. It was Martha who had taken too 
much upon herself. Her generous heart had gone 
beyond her strength, and far beyond the need. Wish- 
ing to do honour to her Guest, studying to please Him, 
she had been over-lavish in her entertainment, until 
she had become worried anxious, troubled, as Jesus 
said, the former word referring to the inner disquiet, 
the* unrest of soul, and the latter to the outward per- 
turbation, the tremor of the nerves, and the cloudiness 
that looked from her eyes. The fact was that Martha 
had misread the tastes of her Guest. She thought to 


please Him by the abundance of her provision, the 
largeness of her hospitality; but for these lower pleasures 
of sense and of taste Jesus cared little. He had meat 
to eat that others knew not of, and to do the will of 
Him that sent Him was to Jesus more than any 
ambrosia or nectar of the gods. The more simple the 
repast ; the more it pleased Him, whose thoughts were 
high in the heavenly places, even while His feet and 
the mortal body He wore touched lightly the earth. 
And so while Martha's motive was pure, her judgment 
was mistaken, and her eager heart tempted her to 
works of supererogation, to an excess of care which 
was anxiety, the fret and fever of the soul. Had she 
been content with a modest service, such as would have 
pleased her Guest, she too might have found time to 
sit at His feet, and to have found there an Elim of rest 
and a Mount of Beatitudes. 

But while Jesus has a kind rebuke for Martha, He 
has only words of commendation for her sister, whom 
she has been so openly and sharply upbraiding. 
" Mary," He said, speaking the name Martha had not 
uttered, " hath chosen the good part, which shall not 
be taken away from her." He answers Martha in 
her own language, her native tongue ; for in speaking 
of Mary's choice as the "good part," it is a culinary 
phrase, the parlance of the kitchen or the table, mean- 
ing the choice bit. The phrase is in apposition with 
the one thing which is needful, which itself is the 
antithesis to the "many things" of Martha's care. 
What the "one thing" is of which Jesus speaks we 
cannot say with certainty, and almost numberless have 
been the interpretations given to it. But without going 
into them, can we not find the truest interpretation in 
the Lord's own words? We think we may, for in 

x. 38-42.] THE TWO SISTERS. 313 

the Sermon on the Mount we have an exact parallel 
to the narrative. He finds people burdened, anxious 
about the things of this life, wearying themselves 
with the interminable questions, " What shall we eat ? 
or What shall we drink ? " as if life had no quest higher 
and vaster than these. And Jesus rebukes this spirit 
of anxiety, exorcising it by an appeal to the lilies and 
the grass of the field ; and summing up His condemna- 
tion of anxiety, He adds the injunction, " Seek ye His 
kingdom, and these things shall be added unto you " 
(xii. 31). Here, again, we have the " many things " of 
human care and strife contrasted with the " one thing " 
which is of supremest moment. First, the kingdom ; 
this in the mind of Jesus was the summum bonum, the 
highest good of man, compared with which the " many 
things " for which men strive and toil are but the dust 
of the balances. And this was the choice of Mary. 
She sought the kingdom of God, sitting at the feet 
of Him who proclaimed it, and who was, though she 
knew it not as yet, Himself the King. Martha too 
sought the kingdom, but her distracted mind showed 
that that was not her only, perhaps not her chief 
quest. Earthly things weighed too heavily upon her 
mind and heart, and through their dust the heavenly 
things became somewhat obscured. Mary's heart was 
set heavenward. She was the listener, eager to know 
the will of God, that she might do it. Martha was so 
busied with her own activities that she could not give 
her thoughts to Christ ; Mary ceased from her works, 
that so she might enter into His rest, setting the 
world behind her, that her undivided gaze might be 
upon Him who was truly her Lord. And so Jesus 
loved Martha, yet pitied and chided her, while He 
loved and commended Mary. 


Nor was the " good part " ever taken from her, for 
again and again we find her returning to the feet of 
Jesus. In the day of their great sorrow, as soon as 
she heard that the Master had come and called her, she 
arose quickly, and coming to Jesus, though it was the 
bare, dusty ground, she fell at His feet, seeking strength 
and help where she before had sought light and truth. 
And once more : when the shadow of the cross came 
vividly near, when Simon gave the feast which Martha 
served, Mary sought those feet again, to pour upon 
them the precious and fragrant nard, the sweet odours 
of which filled all the house, as they have since filled 
all the world. Yes, Mary did not sit at the feet of 
Jesus in vain ; she had learned to know Christ as few 
of the disciples did ; for when Jesus said, " She has 
done it for My burying," He intends us to infer that 
Mary feels, stealing over her retiring but loving soul, 
the cold and awful shadow of the cross. Her broken 
alabaster and its poured-out spikenard are her unspoken 
ode to the Redeemer, her pre-dated homage to the 

And so we find in Mary the truest type of service. 
Hers was not always the passive attitude, receiving 
and never giving, absorbing and not diffusing. There 
was the service before the session ; her hands had 
prepared and wrought for Christ before she placed 
herself at His feet, and the sacrifice followed, as she 
brought her costly gift, to the astonishment of all the 
rest, her sweet and healing balm for the wounds which 
were soon to follow. 

The life that is all receptive, that has no active 
ministries of love, no waiting upon Christ in the person 
of His followers, is an unnatural, an unhealthy life, a 
piece of morbid selfishness which neither pleases God 

x. 38-42.] THE TWO SISTERS. 315 

nor blesses man. On the other hand, the life that is 
always busy, that is in a constant swirl of outward duties, 
flying here and there like the stormy petrel over the 
unresting waves, will soon weary or wear itself out, or 
it will grow into an automaton, a mechanism without a 
soul. Receiving, giving, praying, working these are 
the alternate chords on which the music of our lives 
should be struck. Heavenward, earthward, should be 
the alternate looks heavenward in our waiting upon 
God, and earthward in our service for man. That life 
shines the most and is seen the farthest which reflects 
most of the heavenly light ; and he serves Christ the 
best who now sits humbly and prayerfully at His feet, 
and then goes forth to be a "living echo of His voice," 
breaking for Him the alabaster of a self-sacrificing 
love. As one has beautifully expressed it, " The 
effective life and the receptive life are one. No sweep 
of arm that does some work for God but harvests also 
some more of the truth of God and sweeps it into the 
treasury of the life." * 

But if Mary gives us a type of the truest and best 
service, Martha shows us a kind of service which is 
only too common. She gave to Jesus a right loving 
welcome, and was delighted with the privilege of minis- 
tering to His wants ; but the coming of Jesus brought 
her, not peace, but distraction not rest, but worry. 
Her very service ruffled and irritated her, until mind 
and heart were like the tempestuous lake ere the spell 
of the Divine " Peace " fell upon it. And all the time 
the Christ was near, who could bear each burden, and 
still all the disquiet of the soul ! But Martha was all 
absorbed in the thought of what she could do for Him, 

* * Phillips Brooks. 


and she forgot how much more He could do for her, 
giving to her chafed spirit quietness and rest, even 
amid her toil. The Divine Peace was near her, within 
her home, but the hurryings of her restless will and 
her manifold activities effectually excluded that peace 
from her heart. 

And how many who call themselves Christians are 
true Marthas, serving Christ, but feeling the yoke to 
chafe, and the burden to weight them ! perhaps preach- 
ing to others the Gospel of rest and peace, and them- 
selves knowing little of its experience and blessedness 
like the camels of the desert, which carry their treasures 
of corn and sweet spices to others, and themselves 
feed on the bitter and prickly herbs. Ah, you are 
too much upon your feet ! Cease for awhile from your 
own works, and let God work in you. Wait in His 
presence. Let His words take hold of you, and His 
love enthuse you ; so will you find rest amid your 
toil, calmness amid the strife, and you will prove that 
the fret and the fever of life will all disappear at the 
touch of the living Christ. 



LUKE xv. 

IN this chapter we see how the waves of influence, 
moving outward from their Divine centre, touch 
the outermost fringe of humanity, sending the pulsations 
of new excitements and new hopes through classes 
Religion and Society both had banned. " Now all the 
publicans and sinners were drawing near unto Him, 
for to hear Him." It was evidently a movement 
widespread and deep. The hostility of Pharisees and 
scribes would naturally give to these outcasts a certain 
bias in His favour, causing their hearts to lean towards 
him, while His words of hope fell upon their lives like 
the breaking of a new dawn. Nor did Jesus forbid 
their approach. Instead of looking upon it as an 
intrusion, an impertinence, the attraction was mutual. 
Instead of receiving them with a cold and scant courtesy, 
He welcomed them, receiving them gladly, as the verb 
of the Pharisees' murmur implies. He even mingled 
with them in social intercourse, with an acceptance, 
if not an interchange, of hospitality. To the Pharisaic 
mind, however, this was a flagrant lapse, a breach of 
the proprieties which was unpardonable and half 
criminal, and they gave vent to their disapprobation 
and disgust in the loud and scornful murmur, <f This 


man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." It is 
from this hard sentence of withering contempt, as from 
a prickly and bitter calyx, we have the trifoliate 
parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Lost 
Man, the last of which is perhaps the crown and 
flower of all the parables. With minor differences, the 
three parables are really one, emphasizing, as they 
reiterate, the one truth how Heaven seeks after the 
lost of earth, and how it rejoices when the lost is 

The first parable is pastoral : " What man of you," 
asks Jesus, using the Tu quoque retort, " having a 
hundred sheep, and having lost one of them, doth not 
leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go 
after that which is lost, until he find it ? " It is one 
of those questions which only need to be asked to 
be answered, an interrogative which is axiomatic and 
self-evident. Jesus tries to set his detractors in His 
place, that they may think His thoughts, feel His 
feelings, as they look out on the world from His stand- 
point ; but since they cannot follow Him to these 
redemptive heights, He comes down to the lower level 
of their vision. " Suppose you have a hundred sheep, 
and one of them, getting separated from the rest, 
goes astray, what do you do ? Dismissing it from 
your thought, do you leave it to its fate, the certain 
slaughter that awaits it from the wild beasts? or do 
you seek to minimize your loss, working it out by the 
rule of proportion as you ask, ' What is one to ninety- 
nine ? ' then writing off the lost one, not as a unit, but 
as a common fraction ? No ; such a supposition is 
incredible and impossible. You would go in search 
of the lost directly. Turning your back upon the 
ninety and nine, and turning your thoughts from them 

xv.] LOST AND FOUND. 319 

too, you would leave them in their mountain pasture,* 
as you sought the lost one. Calling it by its name, 
you would climb the terraced hills, and awake the 
echoes of the wadies, until the flinty heart of the 
mountain had felt the sympathy of your sorrow, 
repeating with you the lost wanderer's name. And 
when at last you found it you would not chide or 
punish it ; you would not even force it to retrace its 
steps across the weary distance, but taking compassion 
on its weakness, you would lift it upon your shoulders 
and bear it rejoicing home. Then forgetful of your 
own weariness, fatigue and anxiety swallowed up in 
the new-found joy, you would go round to your 
neighbours, to break the good news to them, and so 
all would rejoice together." 

Such is the picture, warm in colour and instinct 
with life, Jesus sketches in a few well-chosen words. 
He delicately conceals all reference to Himself; but 
even the chromatic vision of the Pharisees would 
plainly perceive how complete was its justification of 
His own conduct, in mingling thus with the erring and 
the lost ; while to us the parable is but a veil of words, 
through which we discern the form and features of the 
" Good Shepherd," who gave even His life for the 
sheep, seeking that He might save that which was lost. 

The second, which is a twin parable, is from domestic 
life. As in the parables of the kingdom, Jesus sets 
beside the man with the mustard-seed the woman with 
her leaven, so here He makes the same distinction, 
clothing the Truth both in a masculine and a feminine 
dress. He asks again, i( Or what woman " (He does 
not say " of you/' for if women were present amongst 

The word rendered t( wilderness " means any land unenclosed. 


His hearers they would be in the background) " having 
ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light 
a lamp, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until 
she find it ? And when she hath found it, she calleth 
together her friends and neighbours, saying, Rejoice 
with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost/' 
Much objection has been taken to this parable for its 
supposed want of naturalness and reality. " Is it 
likely," our objectors say, " that the loss of a small coin 
like a drachma, whose value was about sevenpence- 
halfpenny, could be the occasion of so much concern, 
and that its recovery should be enough to call forth the 
congratulations of all the village matrons ? Surely that 
is not parable, but hyperbole." But things have a real 
as well as an intrinsic value, and what to others would 
be common and cheap, to its possessor might be a 
treasure beyond reckoning, with all the added values 
of association and sentiment. So the ten drachmas of 
the woman might have a history; they might have 
been a family heirloom, moving quietly down the 
generations, with whole poems, ay, and even tragedies, 
hidden within them. Or we can conceive of a poverty 
so dire and strait that even one small coin in the 
emergent circumstance might grow into a value .far 
beyond its intrinsic worth. But the parable does not 
need all these suppositions to steady it and keep*'it 
from falling to the ground. When rightly understood 
it becomes singularly natural, the truth of truth, if such 
an essence can be distilled in human speech. The pro- 
bable interpretation is that the ten drachmas were the 
ten coins worn as a frontlet by the women of the East. 
This frontlet was given by the bridegroom to the bride 
at the time of marriage, and like the ring of Western 
life, it was invested with a kind of sanctity. It must 

xv.] LOST AND FOUND. 321 

be worn on all public occasions, and guarded with a 
jealous, sacred care ; for should one of its pieces be 
lost, it would be regarded as an indication that the 
possessor had not only been careless, but also that she 
had been unfaithful to her marriage vow. Throwing, 
then, this light of Eastern custom upon the parable, 
how vivid and lifelike it becomes ! With what intense 
eagerness would she seek for the missing coin ! Light- 
ing her lamp for the house would be but dimly lighted 
with its open door and its small unglazed window how 
carefully and almost tremblingly she would peer along 
its shelves, and sweep out the corners of iier few 
rooms ! and how great would be her joy as she saw 
it glistening in the dust ! Her whole soul would go 
out after it, as if it were a living, sentient thing. She 
would clasp it in her hand, and even press it to her 
lips ; for has it not taken a heavy care and sorrow from 
her heart ? That one coin rising from the dust has 
been to her like the rising of another sun, filling her 
home with light and her life wjth melody > an d what 
wonder that she hastens to communicate her joy, as, 
standing by her door, after the Eastern wont, she holds 
up the missing treasure, and calls on her neighbours 
and friends (the substantives, are feininine now) to 
rejoice with her. 

The third parable carries the thought still higher, 
forming the crown of the ascending series. Not only 
is there a mathematical progression, as, the lost fraction 
increases from one-hundredth to one-tenth, and then 
to one-half of the whole, but the intrinsic value of the 
loss rises in a corresponding series. In the first it 
was a lost sheep, a loss which might spon be replaced, 
and which would soon be forgotten ; in the second it 
was a lost coin, which, as we have seen, meant the 



of what was more valuable than gold, even honour and 
character; while in the third it is a lost child. We 
call it the parable of the Prodigal Son ; it might with 
equal propriety be called the Parable of the Bereaved 
Father, for the whole story crystallizes about that 
name, repeating it, in one form or another, no less than 
twelve times. 

" A certain man," so begins this parabolic Paternoster^ 
" had two sons." Tired of the restraints of home and 
the surveillance of the father's eye, the younger of 
them determined to see the world for himself, in order, 
as the sequel shows, that he might have a free hand, 
and give loose reins to his passions. With a cold, 
impertinent bluntness, he says to the father, whose 
death he thus anticipates, " Father, give me the portion 
of thy substance that falleth to me," a command 
whose sharp, imperative tone shows but too plainly 
the proud, masterful spirit of the youth. He respects 
neither age nor law; for though the paternal estate 
could be divided during the father's life, no son, much 
less the younger, had any right to demand it. The 
father grants the request, dividing " unto them/' as it 
reads, " his living ; " for the same line which marks off 
the portion of the younger marks out too that of the 
elder son, though he holds his portion as yet only in 
promise. Not many days after for having found its 
wings, the foolish bird is in haste to fly the youth 
gathers all together, and then takes his journey into 
a far country. The down grades of life are generally 
steep and short, and so one sentence is enough to 
describe this descensus Averni, down which the youth 
plunges so insaijely : " He wasted his substance with 
riotous living," scattering it, as the verb means, throw- 
ing it away after low, illicit pleasures. " And when he 

xv.] LOST AND FOUND. 323 

had spent all" the "all" he had scrambled for and 
gathered a short while before " there arose a mighty 
famine in that country ; and he began to be in want ; " 
and so great were his straits, so remorseless the pangs 
of hunger, that he was glad to attach himself to a 
citizen of that country as swineherd, living out in the 
fields with his drove, like the swineherds of Gadara. 
But such was the pressure of the famine that his mere 
pittance could not cope with famine prices, and again 
and again he hungered to have his fill of the carob- 
pods, which were dealt out statedly and sparingly to the 
swine. But no man gave even these to him ; he was 
forgotten, as one already dead. 

Such is the picture Jesus draws of the lost man, a 
picture of abject misery and degradation. When the 
sheep wandered it strayed unwittingly, blindly, get- 
ting farther from its fellows and its fold even when 
bleating vainly for them. When the drachma was lost 
it did not lose itself, nor had it any consciousness that 
it had dropped out of its proper environment. But in 
the case of the lost man it was altogether different. 
Here it is a wilful perversity, which breaks through the 
restraints of home, tramples upon its endearments, and 
throws up a blighted life, scarred and pealed amid the 
husks and swine of a far country. And it is this 
element of perversity, self-will, which explains, as 
indeed it necessitates, another marked difference in 
the parables. When the sheep and the drachma were 
lost there was an eager search, as the shepherd fol- 
lowed the wanderer over the mountain gullies, and the 
woman with broom and lamp went after the lost coin. 
But when the youth is lost, flinging himself away ; the 
father does not follow him, except in thought,* and love, 
and prayer. He sits "still in the house/ 1 nursing a 


bitter grief, and the work on the farm goes on just 
as usual, for the service of the younger brother would 
probably be not much missed. And why does not the 
father summon his servants, bidding them go after the 
lost child, bringing him home, if necessary, by force ? 
Simply because such a finding would be no finding. 
They might indeed carry the wanderer home, setting 
down his feet by the familiar door ; but of what use 
is that if his heart is still wayward and his will rebel- 
lious ? Home would not be home to him ; and with 
his heart in the far country, he would walk even in 
his father's fields and in his father's house as an alien, 
a foreigner. And so all embassies, all messages would 
be in vain ; and even a father's love can do no more 
than wait, patiently and prayerfully, in hopes that a 
better spirit may yet come over him, and that some 
rebound of feeling may bring him home, a humbled 
penitent. The change comes at length, and the slow 
morning dawns. 

When the photographer wishes to develop the picture 
that is hidden in the film of the sensitive plate he 
carries it to 'a darkened room, and bathed in the de- 
veloping solution the latent image gradually appears, 
even to the minutest details* It was so here; for 
when in his extremest need, with the pinch of a fearful 
hunger upon him, and the felt darkness of a painful 
isolation surrounding him, there came into the prodigal's 
soul a sweet picture of the far-away home, the home 
which might still have been his bu| for his wantonness, 
but which is his now only in memory. It is true his 
first thoughts of that home were not very lofty ; they 
only crouched with the dogs under the father's table, 
or hovered around the plentiful board of the servants, 
attracted by the " bread enough an$ to spare." But such 

xv.] LOST AND FOUND. 325 

is the natural association of ideas ; the carob-pods of 
the swine naturally suggest the bread of the servants, 
while this in turn opens up all the chambers of the 
father's house, reviving its half-faded images of happi- 
ness and love, and awaking all the sweet memories 
that sin had stifled and silenced. That it was so here, 
the lower leading up to the higher thought, is evident 
from the young man's soliloquy : " I will arise and go 
to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have 
sinned against Heaven and in thy sight : I am no more 
worthy to be called thy son : make me as one of thy 
hired servants." The hunger for the servants' bread 
is all forgotten now, swallowed up in the hunger of 
the soul, as it pines for the father's presence and for 
the father's smile, longing for the lost Eden. The 
very name " father" strikes with a strange music upon 
his awakened and penitent soul, making him for the 
time half-oblivious to his present wretchedness ; and 
as Memory recalls a bright but vanished past, Hope 
peoples the dark sky with a heavenly host, who sing 
a new Advent, the dawn of a heavenly day. An 
Advent? Perhaps it was an Easter rather, with a 
" resurrection from earth to things above/' an Easter 
whose anthem, in songs without end, was, " I will 
arise and go to my father," that Resurgam of a new 
and holier life. 

No sooner is the "I will " spoken than there is a 
reversing of all the wheels. The hands follow whither 
the heart has gone ; the feet shake off the dust of the 
far country, retracing the steps they measured so 
foolishly and lightly before ; while the eyes, washed 
by their bitter tears 

" Not backward are their glances bent, 
But onward to thfe Father's house." 


"And he arose and came to his father." He came 
to himself first ; and having found that better self, he 
became conscious of the void he had not felt before. 
For the first time he realizes how much the father 
is to him, and how terrible the bereavement and loss 
he inflicted upon himself when he put between that 
father and himself the desert of an awful distance. 
And as the bright memories of other days flash 
up within his soul, like the converging rays of a 
borealis, they all turn towards and centre in the father. 
Servants, home, and loaves of bread alike speak of 
him whose very shadow is brightness to the self- 
orphaned child. He yearns for the father's presence 
with a strange and intense yearning ; and could that 
presence be his again, even if he were nothing more 
than a servant, with but casual interviews, hearing 
his voice but in its commanding tones, he would be 
content and happy. 

And so he comes and seeks the father; will the 
father relent and receive him ? Can he overlook and 
forgive the waywardness and wantonness which have 
embittered his old age ? Can he receive him back even 
as a servant, a child who has scorned his authority, 
slighted his love, and squandered his substance in 
riotous living? Does the father say, " He has made his 
own bedj and he must lie upon it ; he has had his portion, 
even to the swept-up crumbs, and there is nothing left 
for him now " ? No, for there is something left, a trea- 
sure which he might scorn, indeed, but which he could 
not throw away, even a heritage of love. And what a 
picture the parable draws of the love that hopeth and 
endureth all things ! " But while he was yet afar off, 
his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, 
and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." As the 

xv.] LOST AND FOUND. 327 

moon in her revolutions lifts up the tides, drawing the 
deep oceans to herself, so do the unsounded depths of 
the father's heart turn towards the prodigal whose life 
has set, dropping out of sight behind wildernesses of 
darkness. Thought, prayer, pity, compassion, love flow 
out towards the attraction they can no longer see. 
Nay, it seems as if the father's vision were transfixed, 
riveted to the spot where the form of his erring lad 
vanished out of sight; for no sooner has the youth 
come within sight of the home, than the father's eyes, 
made telescopic with love, discern him, and as if by 
intuition, recognize him, even though his attire be mean 
and tattered, and his step has no longer the lightness 
of innocence nor the firmness of integrity. It is, it is 
his child, the erring but now repenting child, and the 
pent-up emotions of the father's soul rush out as in a 
tumultuous freshet to meet him. He even "ran" to 
meet him, all forgetful of the dignity of years, and 
throwing himself upon his neck, he kissed him, not 
either with the cold kiss of courtesy, but with the 
warm, fervent kiss of love, as the intensive prefix of 
the verb implies. 

So far this scene of reconciliation has been as a dumb 
show. The storm of emotion so interrupted the electric 
flow of quiet thought and speech that no word was 
spoken in the mutual embrace. When, however, the 
power of speech returns the youth is the first to break 
the silence. " Father," he said, repeating the words of 
his mental resolve when in the far country, "I have 
sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight : I am no more 
worthy to be called thy son." It is no longer the sense 
of physical need, but the deeper sense of guilt, that 
now presses upon his soul. The moral nature, which 
by the anodynes of sin had been thrown into a state of 


coma, awakes to a vivid consciousness, and in the new 
awakening, in the broadening light of the new dawn, 
he sees one _thiig_ojjly t .and that ^jisjife jdn^ja sin jwhich 
hasTthrown its blackness over the wasted years, which 
has embittered a father's heart, and which cast its 
shadow even into heaven itself. Nor is it the convic- 
tion of sin only ; there is a full and frank confession of 
it, with no attempt at palliation or excuse. He does 
not seek to gloss it over, but smiting his breast with 
bitter reproaches, he confesses his sin with " a humble, 
lowly, penitent, and obedient heart," hoping for the 
mercy and forgiveness he is conscious he does not 
deserve. Nor does he hope in vain. Even before the 
confession is completed, the absolution is spoken, 
virtually at least; for without allowing the youth to 
finish his sentence, in Which he offers to renounce his 
sonship and to accept a menial position, the father calls 
to the servants, "Bring forth quickly the best robe, 
and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and 
shoes on his feet : and bring the fatted calf, and kill it, 
and let us eat and make merry." In this peal of im- 
peratives we detect the rapid beating of the father's 
heart, the loving, eager haste to wipe out all the sad 
marks that sin has left. In the luminous atmosphere 
of the father's love the youth is no more ; the prodigal ; 
he is as one transfigured ; and now that the chrysalis 
has left the mire, and crept up into the sunlight, it rttust 
have a dress befitting its new summer life, wings of 
gauze, and robes of rainbow hues. The best, or " the 
first robe " as it is in the Greek) must be brought out 
for him; a signet-ring, the pledge of authority^ must 
be put upon his hand; shoes, the badge of freedom, 
must be found for the tired and bared feet; while for 
the merry-making which is extemporized, the domestic 

xv.] LOST AND FOUND. 329 

festa which is the crown of these rejoicings, the fatted 
calf, which was in reserve for some high festival, must 
be killed. And all this is spoken in a breath, in a sort 
of bewilderment, the ecstasy of an excessive joy ; and 
forgetting that the simple command is enough for 
servants, the master must needs tell out his joy to 
them : " For this my soh was dead, and is alive again ; 
he was lost, and is found." 

If the three parables were all through coincident, the 
Parable of the Prodigal Son should close at this point, 
the curtain dropping over the festive scene, where songs, 
and music, and the rhythm of the dance are the outward 
and weak expressions of the father's joy over the son 
who comes back from the far country, as one alive from 
the dead. But Jesus has another purpose; He must 
not only plead the cause of the outcast and the low, 
setting open for them the door of mercy and of hope ; 
He must also rebuke and silence the unreasoning 
murmur of the Pharisees and scribes which He does 
in the picture of the Elder Brother. Coming from the 
field, the heir is surprised to find the whole house given 
up to an impromptu feast. He hears the sounds of 
merriment and music, but its strains fall strange and 
harsh upon his ear. What can it mean ? Why was 
he not consulted ? Why should his father thus take 
occasion of his absence in the fields to invite his friends 
and neighbours ? The proud spirit chafes Under the 
slight, and calling one of the servants, he asks what 
it all means. The answer is not reassuring, for it only 
perplexes and pains him the more : " Thy brother is 
coinfe ; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because 
he hath received him safe and sound " an answer 
which ddes but deepen ^nis displeasure, turning his 
sullenhess to anger. " And would not go in." They 


may end the feast, as they began it, without him. The 
festive joy is something foreign to his nature ; it awakes 
but feelings of repulsion, and all its music is to him a 
grating discord, a Miserere. 

But let us not be too severe upon the elder brother. 
He was not perfect, by any means, but in any appraise- 
ment of his character there are certain veinings of 
worth and nobleness that must not be omitted. We 
have already seen how, in the division of the father's 
goods, when he divided unto them his living, while the 
younger took away his portion, and swiftly scattered it 
in riotous living, the elder brother took no advantage 
of the deed of gift. He did not dispossess the father, 
securing for himself the paternal estate. He put it back 
into his father's hands, content with the filial relation 
of dependence and obedience. The father's word was 
still his law. He was the dutiful son ; and when he 
said, " These many years do I serve thee, and I never 
transgressed a commandment of thine/' the boast was 
no exaggeration, but the statement of a simple truth. 
Compared with the life of the prodigal, the life of the 
elder brother had been consistent, conscientious, and 
moral. Where, then, was his failure, his lack ? It was 
just here, in the lack of heart, the absence of affection. 
He bore the name of a son, but he carried the heart of 
a servant. His nature was servile, rather than filial ; 
and while his hands offered a service unremitting and 
precise, it was the cold service of an impassive mechan- 
ism. Instead of love passing out in living heart-throbs, 
suffusing all the life with its warmth, and clothing it in 
its own iridescent colouring, it was only a metallic 
mainspring called " duty." The father's presence is 
not the delight to him ; he does not once mention that 
tender name in which the repenting one finds such a 

xv.] LOST AND FOUND. 331 

heaven ; and when he draws the picture of his highest 
happiness, the feast of his earthly Walhalla, -"my 
friends" are there, though the father is excluded. 
And so between the father and the elder brother, 
with all this seeming nearness, there was a distance 
of reserve, and where the voices of affection and of 
constant communion should have been heard there was 
too often a vacancy of silence. It takes a heart to read 
a heart ; and since this was wanting in the elder 
brother, he could not know the heart of the father; 
he could not understand his wild joy. He had no 
patience with his younger brother ; and had he re- 
ceived him back at all, it would have been with a 
haughty stiffness, and with a lowering in his looks, 
which should have been at once a rebuke for the past 
and a warning for the future. The father looked on 
his son's repentance ; the elder brother did not regard 
the repentance at all ; perhaps he had not heard of it, 
or perhaps he could not understand it ; it was some- 
thing that lay out of the plane of his consciousness. 
He saw the sin only, how the younger son had devoured 
his living with harlots ; and so he was severe, exacting, 
bitter. He would have brought out the sackcloth, but 
nothing more ; while as to the music and the fatted 
calf, they would appear to his loveless soul as an absurd 

But far removed as he is from the father's spirit, he 
is still his son ; and though the father rejoices more 
over the younger than over the elder, as was but 
natural, he loves them both with an equal love. He 
cannot bear that there should be any estrangement 
now; and he even leaves the festive throng, and the 
son he has welcomed and robed, and going out, he begs, 
he entreats the elder brother to pass in, and to throw 


himself into the general joy. And when the elder son 
complains that, with all his years of obedient, dutiful 
service, he has never had even a kid, much less a fatted 
calf, on which to feast his friends, the father says, 
lovingly, but chidingly, "Son "or " Child," rather, for 
it is a term of greater endearment than the " son " he 
had just used before "thou art ever with me, and all 
that is mine is thine. But it was meet to make merry 
and be glad : for this thy brother was dead, and is alive 
again ; and was lost, and is found." He plays upon the 
" child " as upon a harp, that he may drive away the 
evil spirits of jealousy and anger, and that even within 
the servant-heart he may awake some chords, if only 
the far-off echoes of a lost childhood. He reminds him 
how vastly different their two positions are. For him 
there has been no break in their intercourse ; the 
father's house has been his home ; he has had the free 
range of all : to the younger that home has been no- 
thing but a distant memory, with a waste of dreary years 
between. He has been heir and lord of all; and so 
completely have father and son been identified, their 
separate personalities merged the one in the other, that 
the possessive pronouns, the " mine " and the " thine," 
are used interchangeably. The younger returns penni- 
less, disinherited by his own fcnisdeed. Nay, he has 
been as one dead ; for what was the far country but a 
vault of slimy things, the sepulchre of a dead soul ? 
" And should we not make merry and be glad, when 
thy brother" (it is the antithesis to "thy son" of 
ver. 30, a mutual "thy") "comes back to us as one 
raised from the dead ? " 

Whether the father's pleading prevailed, or not, we 
dre not told. We can but hope it did, and that the 
elder brother, With his asperities all dissolved, and his 



jealousies removed, did pass within to share the general 
joy, and to embrace a lost brother. Then he too would 
know the sweetness of forgiveness, and taught by the 
erring but now forgiven one, he too would learn to 
spell out more correctly that deep word " father/' the 
word he had stammered at, and perhaps misspelt 
before, as the fatherhood and the brotherhood became 
to him not ideas merely, but bright realities. 

Gathering up now the lessons of the parables, they 
show us (r) the Divine grief over sin. In the first 
two this is the prominent thought, the sorrow of the 
loser. God is represented as losing that which is of 
worth to Him, something serviceable, and therefore 
valuable. In the third parable the same idea is sug- 
gested rather than stated ; but the thought is carried 
farther, for now it is more than a loss, it is a bereave- 
ment the father suffers. The retreating form of the 
wanderer throws back its shadow across the father's 
home and heart, a shadow that congeals and stays, and 
that is darker than the shadow of Death itself. It is 
the Divine Grief, whose depths we cannot sound, and 
from whose mystery we must stand back, not one 
stone's cast, but many. 

The parables show (2) the sad state of the sinner. 
In the case of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin we 
see his perfect helplessness to recover himsejf, and 
that he must remain lost, unless One higher than him- 
self undertakes his cause, Q$d " help is laid upon One 
that is mighty/ 1 ' It is the third parable, however, 
which especially emphasizes the dpwnward course of 
sin find the deepening wretchedness of the sinner. 
The flowery path leads an to a valley of desolation. 
The w^y of transgressors is ever a downward path ; 
3.nd let an evil spirit possess a soul, it hurries him 


directly down the steep place, where, unless the flight 
be checked, a certain destruction awaits him. Sin 
degrades and isolates. Want, sorrow, penury, and 
pain are but a part of its viperous brood, and he who 
plays with sin, calling it freedom, will find his rod 
blossom with bitter fruit, or he will see it grow into 
a serpent with poison in its fangs. 

The parables show (3) God's willingness and eager- 
ness to save. ! The long and eager search after the 
lost sheep and the .lost coin show, though but im- 
perfectly, the supreme efforts God makes for man's 
salvation. He is not left to wander unrebuked and 
unsought. There is no forbidden path along which 
men insanely rush, but some bright angel stands beside 
it, warning back the sinner, it may be with a drawn 
sword, some " terror of the Lord," or it may be with 
a cross, the sacrifice of an infinite love* Though He 
could send His armies to destroy, He sends His mes- 
sengers to win us back to obedience and to love 
Conscience, Memory, Reason, the Word, the Spirit, and 
even the well-beloved Son. Nor is the great search 
discontinued, until it has proved to be in vain. 

The parables show (4) the eager interest Heaven 
takes in man's salvation, and the deep joy there is 
among the angels over his repentance and recovery. 
And so the three parables close with & Jubilate. The 
shepherd rejoices over his recovered sheep more tha;n 
over the ninety and nine which went not astray; the 
woman rejoices over the one coin found more than 
over the nine which were not lost. And this is per- 
fectly natural. The joy of acquisition is more than 
the joy of possession ; and as the crest of the waves 
is thrown up above the mean sea-level by the alternate 
depths of depression, so the very sorrow and grief 

xv.] LOST AND FOUND. 335 

over the loss and bereavement, now that the lost is 
found and the dead is alive, throw up the emotions 
beyond their mean level, up to the summits of an 
exuberant joy. And whether Jesus meant, by the 
ninety and nine just persons whp needed no repentance, 
the unfallen intelligences of heaven, or whether, as 
Godet thinks, He referred to those who under the 
Old Covenant were sincere doers of the Law, and 
who found their righteousness therein (Deut. vi. 25), 
it is still true, and a truth stamped with a Divine 
" Verily," that more than the joy of Heaven over these 
is its joy over the sinner that repented, the dead who 
now was alive, and the lost who now was found ! 



WHATEVER of truth there may be in the charge 
of " other- worldliness," as brought against the 
modern exponents of Christianity, such a charge could 
not even be whispered against its Divine Founder. It 
is just possible that the Church had been gazing too 
steadfastly up into heaven, and that she had not been 
studying the science of the " Humanities " as zealously 
as she ought, and as she has done since ; but Jesus did 
not allow even heavenly things to obliterate or to blur 
the lines of earthly duty. We might have supposed 
that coming down from heaven, and familiar with its 
secrets, He would have much to say about the New 
World, its position in spaee, its society and manner of 
life. But no ; Jesus says little about the life which is 
to come ; it is the life wliich now is that engrosses His 
attention, and almost monopolizes His speech. Life 
with Him was not in the future tense ; it was one 
living present, real, earnest, but fugitive. Indeed, that 
future was but the present projected over into eternity. 
And so Jesus, founding the kingdom of God on earth, 
and summoning all men into it, if he did not bring 
commandments written and lithographed, like Moses, 
yet He did lay down principles and rules of conduct, 
marking out, in all departments of human life, the 


straight and white lines of duty, the eternal " ought." 
It is true that Jesus Himself did not originate much in 
this department of Christian ethics, and probably for 
most of His sayings we can find a symphony struck 
from the pages of earlier, and perhaps heathen moralists ; 
but in the wide realm of Right there can be no new law. 
Principles may be evolved, interpreted ; they cannot be 
created. Right, like Truth, holds the " eternal years ; " 
and through the millenniums before Christ, as through 
the millenniums after, Conscience, that " ethical intellect" 
which speaks to all men if they will but draw near to 
her Sinai and listen, spoke to some in clear, authorita- 
tive tones. But if Jesus did no more, He gathered up 
the " broken lights " of earth, the intermittent flashes 
which had played on the horizon before, into one 
steady electric beam, which lights up our human life 
outward to its farthest reach, and onward to its farthest 

In the mind of Jesus conduct was the outward r and 
visible expression of some inner invisible force. As 
our earth moves round its elliptic in obedience to the 
subtle attractions of other outlying worlds, so the orbits 
of human lives, whether symmetrical or eccentric, are 
determined mainly by the two forces' Character and 
Circumstance. Conduct is character in motion ; for 
men do what they themselves are, i.e. as far as cir- 
cumstances will allow. And it is just at this point the 
ethical teaching of Jesus begins. He recognizes the 
imperium in imperiOj that hidden world of thought, 
feeling, sentiment, and desire which, itself invisible, is 
the mould irl which things visible are cast. And so 
Jesus, in His influence upon men, worked outward from 
within. He sought, not reform, but regeneration, 
moulding the life by changing the character ; for, to 



use His own figure, how could the thorn produce 
grapes, or the thistle figs? 

And so when Jesus was asked, "What shall I do 
that I may inherit eternal life ? " He gave an answer 
which at first sight seemed to ignore the question 
entirely. He said no word about "doing," but threw 
the questioner back upon "being," asking what was 
written in the law: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy 
God with all thy heart ? and with all thy soul, and with 
all thy strength, and with all thy mind ; and thy neigh- 
bour as thyself" (x. 27). And as Jesus here makes 
Love the condition of eternal life, its sine qua non, so 
He makes it the one all-embracing duty, the fulfilling 
of the law. If a man love God supremely, and his 
neighbour as himself, he cannot do more ; for all other 
commandments are included in these, the sub-sections 
of the greater law. Jesus thus sought to create a new 
force, hiding it within the heart, as the mainspring of 
duty, providing for that duty both aim and inspiration. 
We call it a " new " force, and such it was practically ; 
for though it was, in a way, embedded in their law, it 
was mainly as a dead letter, so much so that when 
Jesus bade His disciples to "love one another" He 
called it a "new commandment." Here, then, we find 
what is at once the rule of conduct and its motive. In 
the new system of ethics, as taught and enforced by 
Jesus, and illustrated by His life, the Law of Love was 
to be supreme. It was to be to the moral world what 
gravitation is to the natural, a silent but mighty and 
all-pervasive force, throwing its spell upon the isolated 
actions of the common day, giving impulse and direc- 
tion to the whole current of life, ruling alike the little 
eddies of thought and the wider sweeps of benevolent 
activities. To Jesus " the soul of improvement was the 


improvement of the soul." He laid His hand upon the 
heart's innermost shrine, building up that unseen temple 
four-square, like the city of the Apocalypse, and light- 
ing up all its windows with the warm, iridescent light 
of love. 

With this, then, as the foundation-tone, running 
through all the spaces and along all the lines of life, the 
thoughts, desires, words, and acts must all harmonize 
with love ; and if they do not, if they strike a note that 
is foreign to its key-tone, it breaks the harmony at 
once, throwing jars and discords into the music. Such 
a breach of the harmonic law would be called a mistake, 
but when it is a breach of Christ's moral law it is 
more than a mistake, it is a wrong. 

Before passing to the outer life Jesus pauses, in this 
Gospel, to correct certain dissonances of mind and soul, 
of thought and feeling, which put us in a wrong attitude 
towards our fellows. First of all, He forbids us to sit 
in judgment upon others. He says, "Judge not, and 
ye shall not be judged : and condemn not, and ye shall 
not be condemned " (vi. 37). This does not mean that 
we close our eyes with a voluntary blindness, working 
our way through life like moles ; nor does it mean that 
we keep our opinions in a state of flux, not allowing 
them to crystallize into thought, or to harden into the 
leaden alphabets of human speech. There is within us 
all a moral sense, a miniature Sinai, and we can no 
more suppress its thunders or sheath its lightnings than 
we can hush the breakers of the shore into silence, or 
suppress the play of the Northern Lights. But in that 
unconscious judgment we pass upon the actions of 
others, with our condemnation of the wrong, we pass 
our sentence upon the wrong-doer, mentally ejecting 
him from the courtesies and sympathies of life, and 


if we allow him to live at all, compelling him to live 
apart, as a moral incurable. And so, with our hatred 
of the sin, we learn to hate the sinner, and calling 
from him both our charities and our hopes, we hurl 
him down into some little Gehenna of our own. But 
it is exactly this feeling, this kind of judgment, the 
Law of Love condemns. We may " hate the sin, and 
yet the sinner love," keeping him still within the circle 
of our sympathies and our hopes. It is not meet that 
we should be merciless who have ourselves experienced 
so much of mercy ; nor is it for us to hale others off 
to prison, or ruthlessly to exact the uttermost farthing, 
when we ourselves at the very best are erring and 
unfaithful servants, standing so much and so often in 
need of forgiveness. 

But there is another "judging" that the command of 
Christ condemns, and that is the hasty and the false 
judgments we pass on the motives and lives of others. 
How apt we are to depreciate the worth of others who 
do not happen to belong to our circle ! We look so 
intently for their faults and foibles that we become blind 
to their excellences. We forget that there is some 
good in every person, some that we can see if we only 
look, and we may be always sure that there is some we 
cannot see. We should not prejudge. We should not 
form our opinion upon an ex parte statement. We 
should not leave the heart too open to the flying 
germs of rumour, and we should discount heavily 
any damaging, disparaging statement. We should not 
allow ourselves to draw too many inferences, for he 
who is given to drawing inferences draws largely on his 
imagination. We should think slowly in our judgment 
of others, for he who leaps to conclusions generally 
takes his leap in the dark. We should learn to wait for 


the second thoughts, for they are often truer than the 
first. Nor is it wise to use too much " the spur of the 
moment ; " it is a sharp weapon, and is apt to cut both 
ways. We should not interpret others' motives by 
our own feelings, nor should we " suppose" too much. 
Above all, we should be charitable, judging of others 
as we judge ourselves. Perhaps the beam that is in a 
brother's eye is but the magnified mote that is in our 
own. It is better to learn the art of appreciating than 
that of depreciating ; for though the one is easy, and the 
other difficult, yet he who looks for the good, and exalts 
the good, will make the very wilderness to blossom and 
be glad ; while he who depreciates everything outside 
his own little self impoverishes life, and makes the very 
garden of the Lord one arid, barren desert. 

Again, Jesus condemns pride, as being a direct con- 
travention of His Law of Love. Love rejoices in the 
possessions and gifts of others, nor would she care 
to add to her own if it must be at the cost of theirs. 
Love is an equalizer, levelling up the inequalities the 
accidents of life have made, and preferring to stand on 
some lower level with her fellows than to sit solitary 
on some lofty and cold Olympus. Pride, on the other 
hand, is a repelling, separating force. Scorning those 
who occupy the lower places, she is contented only on 
her Olympian summit, where she keeps herself warm 
with the fires of her self-adulation. The proud heart 
is the loveless heart, one huge inflation ; if she carries 
others at all, it is only as a steadying ballast ; she will 
not hesitate to throw them over and throw them down, 
as mere dust or sand, if their fall will help her to rise. 
Pride, like the eagle, builds her nest on high, bringing 
forth whole broods of loveless, preying passions, hatreds, 
jealousies, and hypocrisies. Pride sees no brotherhood 


in man ; humanity to her means no more than so many 
serfs to wait upon her pleasure, or so many victims for 
her sacrifice ! And how Jesus loved to prick these 
bubbles of airy nothings, showing up these vanities as 
the very essence of selfishness ! He did not spare His 
words, even though they stung, when " He marked how 
they chose out the chief seats " at the friendly supper 
(xiv. 7) ; and one of His bitter " woes " He hurled at 
the Pharisees just because " they loved the chief seats 
in the synagogues," worshipping Self, when they pre- 
tended to worship God, so making the house of God 
itself an arena for the sport and play of their proud 
ambitions. " He that is least among you all," He said, 
when rebuking the disciples' lust for pre-eminence, 
"the same is great." And such is Heaven's law: 
humility is the cardinal virtue, the " strait " and low 
gate which opens into the very heart of the kingdom. 
Humility is the one and the only way of heavenly 
preferments and eternal promotions ; for in the life to 
come there will be strange contrasts and inversions, 
as he that exalted himself is now humbled, and he that 
humbled himself is now exalted (xiv. u). 

Tracing now the lines of duty as they run across the 
outer life, we find them following the same directions. 
As the golden milestone of the Forum marked the centre 
of the empire, towards which its roads converged, and 
from which all distances were measured, so in the 
Christian commonwealth Jesus makes Love the capital, 
the central, controlling power ; while at the focal point 
of all the duties He sets up His Golden Rule, which 
gives direction to all the paths of human conduct : 
" And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye 
also to them likewise" (vi. 31). In this general law 
we have what we might call the ethical compass, for it 


embraces within its circle the "whole duty of man" 
towards his fellow; and it only needs an adjusted 
conscience, like the delicately poised needle, and the 
line of the " ought " can be read off at once, even in 
those uncertain latitudes where no specific law is found. 
Are we in doubt as to what course of conduct to pursue, 
as to the kind of treatment we should accord to our 
fellow? we can always find the via recta by a short 
mental transposition. We have only to put ourselves 
in his place, and to imagine our relative positions 
reversed, and from the " would " of our supposed 
desires and hopes we read the " ought " of present 
duty. The Golden Rule is thus a practical exposition 
of the Second Commandment, investing our neighbour 
with the same luminous atmosphere we throw about 
ourselves, the atmosphere of a benevolent, beneficent 

But beyond this general law Jesus gives us a prescript 
as to the treatment of enemies. He says, " Love your 
enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that 
curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. To 
him that srniteth thee on the one cheek offer also the 
other: and from him that taketh away thy cloak withhold 
not thy coat also " (vi. 27-29), In considering these in- 
junctions we must bear in mind that the word "enemy" in 
its New Testament meaning had not the wide and general 
signification it has to-day. It then stood in antithesis 
to the word " neighbour," as in Matt. v. 43 ; and as the 
word "neighbour" to the Jew included those, and those 
only, who were of the Hebrew race and faith, the word 
" enemy " referred to those outside, who were aliens 
from the commonwealth of Israel. To the Hebrew 
mind it stood as a synonym for " Gentile." In these 
words, then, we find, not a general and universal law, 


but the special instructions as to their course of con- 
duct in dealing with the Gentiles, to whom they would 
shortly be sent. No matter what their treatment, they 
must bear it with an uncomplaining patience. Stripped, 
beaten, they must not resist, much less retaliate ; they 
must not allow any vindictive feelings to possess them, 
nor must they take in their own hot hand the sword of 
a " sweet revenge." Nay, they must even bear a good- 
will towards their enemies, repaying their hate with 
love, their spite and enmity with prayers, and their 
curses with sincerest benedictions. 

It will be observed that no mention is made of re- 
pentance or of restitution : without waiting for these, 
or even expecting them, they must be prepared to for- 
give and prepared to love their enemies, even while 
they are shamefully treating them. And what else, 
under the circumstances, could they have done ? If 
they appealed to the secular power it would simply 
have been an appeal to a heathen court, from enemies 
to enemies. And as to waiting for repentance, their 
"enemies" are only treating them as enemies, aliens 
and foreigners, wronging them, it is true, but ignorantly, 
and not through any personal malice. They must for- 
give just for the same reason that Jesus forgave Hi 
Roman murderers, " for they know not what they do." 

We .cannot, therefore, take these injunctions, which 
evidently had a special and temporary application, as 
the literal rule of conduct towards those who are un- 
friendly or hostile to us. This, however, is plain, that 
even our enemies, whose enmity is directly personal 
rather than sectional or racial, are not to be excluded 
from the Law of Love. We must bear them neither 
hatred nor resentment ; we must guard our hearts 
sacredly from all malevplent, vindictive feelings. We 


must not be our own avenger, taking vengeance upon 
our adversaries, as we let loose the barking Cerberus 
to track and run them down. All such feelings are 
contrary to the Law of Love, and so are contraband, 
entirely foreign to the heart that calls itself Christian. 
But with all this we are not to meet all sorts of injuries 
and wrongs without protest or resistance. We cannot 
condone a wrong without being accomplices in the 
wrong. To defend our property and life is just as 
much our duty as it was the wisdom and the duty of 
those to whom Jesus spoke to offer an uncomplaining 
cheek to the Gentile smiter. Not to do this is to en- 
courage crime, and to put a premium upon evil. Nor 
is it inconsistent with a true lov$, to seek to punish, 
by lawful means, the wrong-doer. Justice here is the 
highest type of mercy, and pains and penalties have 
a remedial virtue, taming the passions which had grown 
too wild, or straightening the conscience that had 
become warped. 

And so Jesus, speaking of the " offences/' the occa- 
sions of stumbling that would come, said, "If thy 
brother sin, rebuke him ; and if he repent, forgive him " 
(xviL 3). It is not the patient, silent acquiescence now. 
No, we must rebuke the brother who has sinned against 
us and wronged us. And if this is vain, we must tell 
it to the Church, as St Matthew completes the injunc- 
tion (xviii. 17); and if the offender will not hear the 
Church, he must be cast out, ejected from their fellow- 
ship, and becoming to their thought as a heathen or a 
publican. The wrong, though it is a brother who does 
it, must not be glossed over with the enamel of a 
euphemism ; nor must it be hushed up, veiled by a 
guilty silence. It must be brought to the light of day ; 
it must be rebuked and punished ; nor must it be 


forgiven until it is repented of. Let there be, however, 
a genuine repentance, and there must be on our part 
the prompt and complete forgiveness of the wrong. 
We must set it back out of our sight, amongst the for- 
gotten things. And if the wrong be repeated, if the 
repentance be repeated, the forgiveness must be re- 
peated too, not only for seven times seven offences, 
but for seventy times seven. Nor is it left to our option 
whether we forgive or no ; it is a duty, absolute and 
imperative ; we must forgive, as we ourselves hope to 
be forgiven. 

Again, Jesus treats of the true use of wealth. He 
Himself assumed a voluntary poverty. Silver and 
gold had He none ; indeed, the only coin that we read 
He handled was the borrowed Roman penny, with 
Caesar's inscription upon it. But while Jesus Himself 
preferred poverty, choosing to live on the outflowing 
charities of those who felt it both a privilege and an 
honour to minister to Him of their substance, yet He 
did not condemn wealth. It was not a wrong per se. 
In the Old Testament it had been regarded as a sign 
of Heaven's special favour, and amongst the rich Jesus 
Himself found some of His 'warmest, truest friends 
friends who came nobly to the front when some who 
had made louder professions had ignominiously fled. 
Nor did Jesus require the renunciation of wealth as the 
condition of discipleship. He did not advocate that 
fictitious egaliU of the Commune. He sought rather to 
level up than to level down. It is true He did say to 
the ruler, " Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto 
the poor;" but this was an exceptional case, 1 and 
probably it was put before him as a test command, like 

* This demand was made from the Apostles (xii. 33), but not from 
others beyond the Apostolic circle. 


the command to Abraham that he should sacrifice his 
son which was not intended to be carried out literally, 
but only as far as the intention, the will. There was 
no such demand made from Nicodemus, and when 
Zacchaeus testified that it had been his practice (the 
present tense would indicate a retrospective rather than 
a prospective rule) to give one-half of his income to the 
poor, Jesus does not find fault with his division, and 
demand the other half; He commends him, and passes 
him up, right over the excommunication of the rabbis, 
iamong the true sons of Abraham. , Jesus did not pose 
as an assessor ; He left men to divide their own inherit- 
ance. It was enough for Him if He could put within 
the soul this new force, the " moral dynamic " of love 
to God and man ; then the outward relations would 
shape themselves, regulated as by some automatic 

But with all this, Jesus recognized the peculiar temp- 
tations and dangers of wealth. He saw how riches 
tend to engross and monopolize the thought, diverting 
it from higher things, and so He classed riches with 
cares, pleasures, which choke the Word of life, and make 
it unfruitful. He saw how wealth tended to selfish- 
ness; that it acted as an astringent, closing up the 
valves of the heart, and thus shutting down the outflow 
of its sympathies. And so Jesus, whenever He spoke 
of wealth, spoke in words of warning : " How hardly 
shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of 
God ! " He said, when He saw how the rich ruler set 
wealth before faith and hope. And singularly enough, 
the only times Jesus, in His parables, lifts up the curtain 
of doom it is to tell of " certain rich " men the one, 
whose soul swung selfishly between his banquets and 
his barns, and who, alas ! had laid up no treasures in 


heaven ; and the other, who exchanged his purple and 
fine linen for the folds of enveloping flames, and the 
sumptuous fare of earth for eternal want, the eternal 
hunger and thirst of the after-retribution ! 

What, then, is the true use of wealth ? and how 
may we so hold it that it shall prove a blessing, and 
not a bane ? In the first place, we must hold it in our 
hand, and not lay it up in the heart. We must possess 
it ; it must not possess us. We may give our thought, 
moderately, to it, but our affections must not be allowed 
to centre upon it. We read that the Pharisees "were 
lovers of money" (xvi. 14), and that argentic passion 
was the root of all their evils. The love of money, like 
an opiate, little by little, steals over the whole frame, 
deadening the sensibility, perverting the judgment, and 
weakening the will, producing a kind of intoxication, 
in which the better reason is lost, and the confused 
speech can only articulate, with Shylock, " My ducats, 
my ducats ! " The true way of holding wealth is to 
hold it in trust, recognizing God's ownership and our 
stewardship. Bank it up, give it no outlet, and your 
wealth becomes a stagnant pool, breeding malaria and 
burning fevers ; but open the channel, give it an outlet, 
and it will bring life and music to a thousand lower 
vales, increasing the happiness of others, and increas- 
ing your own the more. And so Jesus strikes in with 
His frequent imperative, " Give " u Give, and it shall be 
given unto you ; good measure, pressed down, shaken 
together, running over, shall they give into your 
bosom " (vi. 38), And this is the true use of wealth, 
its consecration to the needs of humanity. And may 
we not say that here is its truest pleasure ? He who 
has learned the art of generous giving, who makes his 
life one large-hearted benevolence, living for others and 


not for himself, has acquired an art that is beautiful 
and Divine, an art that turns the deserts into gardens 
of the Lord, and that peoples the sky overhead with 
unseen singing Ariels. Giving and living are heavenly 
synonyms, and he who giveth most liveth best. 

But not from the words of Jesus alone do we read 
off the lines of our duty. He is in His own Person 
a Polar Star, to whom all the meridians of our round 
life turn, and from whom they emanate. His life is 
thus our law, His example our pattern. Do we wish 
to learn what are the duties of children to their parents ? 
the thirty silent years of Nazareth speak in answer. 
They show us how the Boy Jesus is in subjection to 
His parents, giving to them a perfect obedience, a 
perfect trust, and a perfect love. They show us the 
Divine Youth, still shut in within that narrow circle, 
ministering to that circle, by hard manual toil becoming 
the stay of that fatherless home. Do we wish to learn 
our duties to the State ? See how Jesus walked in 
a land across which the Roman eagle had cast its 
shadow! He did not preach a crusade against the 
barbarian invaders. He recognized in their presence 
and power the ordination of God that they had been 
sent to chastise a lapsed Israel. And so Jesus spoke 
no word of denunciation, no fiery word, which might 
have proved the spark of a revolution. He took 
Himself away from the multitudes when they would 
by force make Him King. He spoke in respectful terms 
of the powers that were ; He even justified the payment 
of tribute to Caesar, acknowledging his lordship, while 
at the same time He spoke of the higher tribute to 
the great Over-Lord, even God. When upon His trial 
for life or death, before a Roman tribunal, He even 
stayed to apologize for Pilate's weakness, casting the 


heavier sin back on the hierarchy that had bought 
Him and delivered Him up; while upon the cross, 
amid its untold agonies, though His lips were glued 
by a fearful thirst, He opened them to breathe a last 
prayer for His Roman executioners : " Father, forgive 
them ; for they know not what they do." 

But was Jesus, then, an alien from His kinsmen 
according to the flesh ? Was patriotism to Him an 
unknown force ? Did He know nothing of love of 
country, that inspiration which has turned common 
men into heroes and martyrs, that love which oceans 
cannot quench, nor distance weaken, which throws 
an auroral brightness around the most sterile shores, 
and -which makes the emigrant sick with a strange 
Heimweh ? Did the Son of man, the ideal Man, know 
nothing at all of this ? He did know it, and know it 
well. He identified Himself thoroughly with His 
people ; He placed Himself under the law, observing 
its rites and ceremonies. After the Childhood-exile in 
Egypt, He scarcely passed out of the sacred bounds ; 
no storms of rough persecution could dislodge the 
heavenly Dove, or send Him wheeling off from His 
native hills. And if He did not preach rebellion, He 
did preach that righteousness which gives to a nation 
its truest wealth and widest liberty. He did denounce 
the Pharisaic shams, the hollow hypocrisies, which had 
eaten away the nation's heart and strength. And how 
He loved Jerusalem, forgetting His own triumph in 
the vision of her humiliation, and weeping for the 
desolations which were coming sure and fast ! This, 
the Holy City, was the centre to which He ever 
returned, and to which He gave His last bequest His 
cross and His grave. Nay, when the cross is taken 
down, and the grave is vacant, He lingers to give His 


Apostles their commission ; and when He bids them, 
" Go ye out into all the world," He adds, " beginning 
at Jerusalem." The Son of man is the Son of David 
still, and within His deep love for humanity at large 
was a peculiar love for His "own/' as the ark itself 
was enshrined within the Holy of holies. 

And so we might traverse the whole ethical domain, 
and we should find no duty which is not enforced or 
suggested by the words or the life of the great Teacher. 
As Dr. Dorner says, " There is only one morality ; 
the original of it is in God ; the copy of it is in the 
Man of God." Happy is He who sees this Polar Star, 
whose light shines clear and calm above the rush of 
human years and the ebbs and flows of human life ! 
Happier still is he who shapes his course by it, who 
reads off all his bearings from its light ! He who 
builds his life after the Divine model, reading the 
Christ-life into his own, will build up another city of 
God on earth, four-square and compact together, a 
city of peace, because a city of righteousness and a 
city of love. 



I, in his parable to the thanes and nobles of 
the North Humber country, likened the present 
life of man to the flight of a sparrow through one of 
their lighted halls, coming out of the night, and then 
disappearing in the dark winter whence it came ; and 
he asked for Christianity a candid hearing, if perhaps 
she might tell the secrets of the beyond. And so 
indeed she does, lighting up the "dark winter" with 
a bright, though a partial apocalypse. It is not our 
purpose to enter into a general discussion of the 
subject; our task is simply to arrest the beams of 
inspired light hiding within this Gospel, and by a sort 
of spectrum analysis to read from them what they are 
permitted to reveal. And > 

I. The Gospel teaches that the grave is not the end 
of life. It may seem as if we were stating but a 
truism in saying this ; yet if a truism, it perhaps has 
not been allowed its due place in our thought, and its 
restatement may not be altogether a superfluous word. 
We cannot study the life of Jesus without noticing that 
His views of earth were not the views of men in 
general. To them this world was everything ; to 
possess it, even in some infinitesimal quantity, was their 
supreme ambition ; and though in their better, clearer 


moments they caught glimpses of worlds other than 
their own, yet to their distant vision they were as the 
twinkling stars of the azure, far . off and cold, soon 
losing themselves in the haze of unreality, or setting in 
the shadows of the imposing earth. To Jesus earth 
was but a fragment of a vaster whole, *a fragment 
whose substances were but the -shadows of higher, 
heavenlier realities. Nor were these .outlying spaces 
to His mind voids of silence, a " dark inane," without 
life or thought; they were peopled with intelligences 
whose personalities were as distinctly marked as is this 
human Ego, and whose movements, unweighted by the 
gyves of flesh, seemed subtle and swift 1 as thought 
itself. With one of these worlds Jesus was perfectly 
familiar. With heaven, which was the abode of His 
Father and innumerable hosts of angels, He was in 
close and constant correspondence, and the frequent 
prayer, the frequent upward looks tell us- how near and 
how intensely real the heavenly places were to Him. 
But in the mind of Jesus this empyrean of happiness 
and light had its antipodes of woe and darkness, a 
penal realm of fearful shadow, and which, borrowing the 
language of the city, He called the Gehenna of burning. 
Such were the two invisible realms, lying away from 
earth, yet closely touching it from opposite directions, 
and to one or other of which all the paths of human 
life turned, to find their goal and their self-chosen 

And not only so, but the transition from the Seen 
to the Unseen was not to Jesus the abrupt and total 
change that it seems to man. To us the dividing-line 
is both dark and broad. It seems to us a transmigration 
to some new and strange world, where we must begin 
life de nova. To Jesus the line was narrow, like one of 




the imaginary meridians of earth ; the "here" shading off 
into the "hereafter," while both were but the hemispheres 
of one round life. And so Jesus did not often speak of 
" death ; " that was too human a word. He preferred 
the softer names of "sleep" or "exodus/' thus mak- 
ing death the quickener of life, or likening it to a 
triumphal march from bondage to liberty. Nor was " the 
Valley of the Shadow" to Jesus a strange, unfamiliar 
place. He knew all its secrets, all its windings. It 
was His own territory, where His will was supreme. 
Again and again He throws a commanding voice across 
the valley, a voice which goes reverberating among 
the heights beyond, and instantly the departed ^spirit 
retraces its steps, to animate again the cold clay it had 
forsaken. " He is not the God of the dead, but of the 
living/' said Jesus, as He claimed for Abraham, Isaac, 
and Jacob an existence altogether apart from the 
crumbling dust of Hebron ; and as we see Moses and 
Elias coming to the Mount of Transfiguration, we see 
that the departed have not so far departed as to take 
no interest in earthly things, and as not to hear the 
strike of earthly hours. And how clearly this is seen 
in the resurrection life of Jesus, with which this 
Gospel closes ! Death and the Grave have done their 
worst to Him, but how little is that worst! how 
insignificant the blank it makes in the Divine Life! 
The few hours in the grave were but a semibreve 
rest in the music of that Life; the Easter morning 
struck a fresh bar, and the music went on, in the higher 
spaces, it is true, but in the same key and in the same 
sweet strain. And just so is it with all human life; 
"the grave is not our goal/' Conditions and circum- 
stances will of necessity change, as the mortal puts on 
immortality, but the life itself will be one and the same 


life, here amid things visible and temporal, and there 
amid the invisible and eternal. 

2. The Gospel shows in what respects the conditions 
of the after-life will be changed. In chapter xx. 27 we 
read how that the Sadducees came to Jesus, tempting 
Him. They were the cold materialists of the age, 
denying the existence of spirits, and so denying the 
resurrection. They put before Him an extreme, though 
not impossible case, of a woman who had been the wife, 
successively, of seven brethren ; and they' ask, with the 
ripple of an inward laugh in their question, "In the 
resurrection therefore whose wife of them shall she 
be ? " Jesus answered, " The sons of this world marry, 
and are given in marriage : but they that are accounted 
worthy to attain to that world, and the resurrection 
from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage : 
for neither can they die any more : for they are equal 
unto the angels ; and are sons of God, being sons of the 
resurrection." It will be observed how Jesus plays 
with the word around which the Sadducean mind 
revolves. To them marriage was a key-word which 
locked up the gates of an after-life, and threw back the 
resurrection among the impossibilities and absurdities. 
But Jesus takes up their key-word, and turning it 
round and round in His speech, He makes it unlock 
and open the inner soul of these men, showing how, 
in spite of their intellectuality, the drift of their thoughts 
was but low and sensual. At the same time Jesus 
shows that their test-word is altogether mundane. It 
is made for earth alone ; for having a nature of flesh 
and blood, it cannot enter into the higher kingdom of 
glory. Marriage has its place in' the life whose termini 
are birth and death. It exists mainly for the perpetua- 
tion and increase of the human race. It has thus to 


do with the lower nature of man, the physical, the 
earthly; but in the world to come birth, marriage, 
death will be outdated, obsolete terms. Man then will 
be " equal unto the angels," the coarser nature which 
fitted him for earth being shaken off and left behind, 
amongst other mortalities. 

And exactly the same truth is taught by the three 
posthumous appearances recorded in this Gospel When 
they appeared upon the Mount of Transfiguration, 
Moses and Elias had been residents of the other 
world, the one for nine, the other for fourteen centuries. 
But while possessing the form, and perhaps the features 
of the old body of earth, the glorious body they wear 
now is under conditions and laws altogether different. 
How easy and aerial are its movements ! Though it 
possesses no wings, it has the lightness and buoyancy 
of a bird, moving through space swiftly and silently as 
the light pulses through the ether. Or take the body 
of Christ's resurrection life. It has not yet become the 
glorified body of the heavenly life ; it is in its transition 
state, between the two ; yet how changed it is ! Lifted 
above the needs and laws of our earth-bound nature, 
the risen Christ no longer lives among His own ; He 
dwells apart, where we cannot tell. When He does 
appear He comes in upon them suddenly, giving no 
warning of His approach ; and then, after the bright 
though brief apocalypse, He vanishes as mysteriously 
as He came, passing at the last on the clouds to heaven. 
There is thus some correspondence between the body 
of the old and that of the new life, though how far the 
resemblance extends we cannot tell; we can only fall 
back upon the Apostle's words, which to our human 
ear sound like a paradox, but which give us our only 
solution of the enigma, "It is raised a spiritual body"* 


(i Cor. xv. 44). It is no longer the " natural body/' 
but a supernatural one, with a spiritual instead of a 
material form, and under spiritual laws. 

But taking the Apostle's words as our base-line, and 
measuring from them, we may throw our lines of sight 
across the hereafter, reading at least as much as this, 
that whatever may be the pleasures or -the pains of the 
after-life, they will be of a spiritual, and not of a physical 
kind. It is just here that our vision sometime. s" gets 
blurred and indistinct, as all the descriptions of that 
after-life, even in Scripture, are given in earthly figures. 
And so we have built up before us a .material heaven, 
with jasper walls, and gates of pearl, and gardens of 
perennial fruits, with crowns. and other palace delights. 
But it is evident that these are but the earthly shadows 
of the heavenly realities, the darkened glasses of our 
earthly speech, which help our dull vision to gaze upon 
glories which the eye of our mortality hath not seen, 
and which its heart' cannot conceive, except dimly, as a 
few "broken lights" pass through the. .dark lenses of 
these earthly figures^ - What new senses may be created 
we do not know, but if the body of the after-life is "a 
spiritual body," then its whole environment 
changed* Material substances can no longer affect it, 
either to cause pleasure or pain ; and though we may 
not yet tell in what the delights of the one state, or 
the pains of the .other will consist, we do know that 
they must be something other than literal palms and 
crowns, and other than material fire's. These figures 
are but the stammerings of our earthly speech, as it 
tries to tell the unutterable. 

3. Our Gospel teaches that character determiiies des- 
tiny. " A man's life/' said Jesus, when rebuking covet- 
ousness (xiv 15), "consisted not in the abundance of 


the things which he possesseth." These are not life's 
noblest aim, nor its truest wealth. They are but the 
accidents of life, the particles of floating dust, caught 
up by the stream ; they will be left behind soon as 
the sediment, if not before, when they reach the barrier 
of the grave. A man's possessions do not constitute 
the true life; they do not make the real self, the 
man. Here it is not what a man has, but what a 
man is. And a man is just what his heart makes him. 
The outer life is but the blossoming of the inner soul, 
and what we call character, in its objective meaning, 
is but the subtle and silent influence, the odour, as we 
might call it, fragrant or otherwise, which the soul 
unconsciously throws out And even in this world 
character is more than circumstance, for it gives aim 
and direction to the whole life. Men do not always 
reach their goal in earthly things, but in the moral 
world each man goes to his "own place," the place 
he himself has chosen and sought ; he is the arbiter of 
his own destiny. 

And what we find to be a law of earth is the law of 
the kingdom of heaven, as Jesus was constantly affirm- 
ing. The future life would simply be the present life, 
with eternity as its coefficient. Destiny itself would be 
but the harvest of earthly deeds, the hereafter being 
only the after-here. Jesus shows us how while on 
earth we may lay up " treasures in the heavens," 
making for ourselves " purses which wax not old," and 
thus becoming "rich toward. God." He draws a vivid 
picture of " a certain rich man," whose one estimate of 
life was " the abundance of the things which he pos- 
sessed," the size and affluence of his barns, and whose 
soul was required of him just when he was congratulat- 
ing it on the years of , guaranteed plenty, bidding it, 


" Take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry (xii. 16-12)." 
He does not here trace for us the destiny of such a soul 
He does this in another parable but He pictures it 
as suddenly torn away, and eternally separated, from 
all it had possessed before, leaving it, perhaps, to be 
squandered thriftlessly, or consumed by the fires of 
lust ; while, starved and shrivelled, the pauper soul is 
driven out from its earthly stewardship, to find, alas ! 
no welcome in the "eternal tabernacles." In the 
appraisement of this world such a man would be 
deemed wise and happy, but to Heaven he is the 
" foolish one," committing the great, the eternal folly. 

The same lesson is taught in the parables of the 
Housebuilders (vi. 47) and of the Talents (xix. 12). In 
each there comes the inevitable test, the down-rush of 
the flood and the reckoning of the lord, a test which 
leaves the obedient secure and happy, the faithful pro- 
moted to honour and rewards, passed up among the 
kings ; but the disobedient, if not entombed in the ruins 
of their false hopes, yet all shelterless from the pitiless 
storm, and the unfaithful and slothful servant stripped 
of even the little he had, passed downwards into dis- 
honour and shame. 

In another parable, that of the Rich Man and Lazarus 
(xvi. 19-31), we have a light thrown upon our subject 
which is at once vivid and lurid. In a few graphic words 
He draws for us the picture of strange contrasts. The 
one 'is rich, dwelling in a palatial residence, whose impos- 
ing gateway looked down upon the^ulgar crowd ; clothed 
in garments of Tyrian purple and of Egyptian byssus, 
which only great wealth could purchase, and faring 
sumptuously every day. So, with perpetual banquets, 
the rich man lived his selfish, sensual life. With 
thought all centred upon himself, and that his lowest 


self, he has no thoughts or sympathies to spare 'far 
the outlying world. They do not even travel so far as 
to the poor beggar who is cast daily at his gate, in 
hopes.that some of the shaken-out crumbs of the banquet 
may fall within ^his reach. Such is the contrast the 
extreme of wealth, and th.e extreme of poverty ; the one 
with troops of friends, the other friendless for the 
verb shows that the hands which laid him down by the 
rich man's 4 gate were not the gentle hands of affection, 
but the rough hands of duty or of a cold charity ; the 
one clothed in splendid -attire, the other not possessing 
enough even. .to cover his sores; the one gorged to 
repletion, the other shrunken and starved ; the one the 
anonymous Epicurean, the other possessing a name 
indeed, but nought beside, but a name that had a 
Divinity hidden within it,* and which was an index to 
the soul that bore it. Such were the two characters 
Jesus portrayed; and then, lifting up the veil of shadows, 
He shows how the marked contrast reappears in the 
after-life, but with a strange inverting. Now the poor 
man is blessed, the rich in distress ; the one is enfolded 
in Abraham's bosom, the other enveloped in flames; 
the one has all the delights of Paradise, the other begs 
for just a drop of water with which to cool the parched 

It may be said that this is simply parable, set forth 
in language which must not be taken literally. So it 
is; but the parables of Jesus were not mere word- 
pictures ; they held in solution essential truth. And 
when we have, eliminated all this figurative colouring 
there is stijl left this residuary, elementary truth, that 
character determines destiny : that we cast into our 

* The name ."Lazarus " is derived from l-ezer, or ''God helps," 


future the shadow of our present selves ; that the good 
will be blessed, and the evil unblessed, which means 
accursed ; and that heaven and hell are tremendous 
realities, whose pleasures and whose pains lie alike 
deep beyond the sounding of our weak speech. When, 
the rich man forgot his duties to humanity ; when he 
banished God from his mansion, and proscribed mercy 
from his thoughts ; when he left Heaven's foundling to 
the dogs, he was writing out his book of doom, passing 
sentence upon himself. The tree lies as it falls, and 
it falls as it leans; and where is there place for the 
unforgiven, the unregenerate, for the sensual and the 
selfish, the unjust and the unclean, but somewhere in 
the outer darkness they themselves have helped to 
make ? To the sensual and the vile heaven itself 
would be a hell, its very joys curdling into pain, its 
streets, thronged with the multitudes of the redeemed, 
offering to the guilty and unrenewed soul but a solitude 
of silence and anguish ; and even were there no' Enal 
judgment, no solemn pronouncement of destiny, the 
'evil could never blend with the good, the pure with 
the vile ; they would gravitate, even as they do now, 
in opposite directions, each seeking its "own place." 
Wherever .and whatever our final heaven may be, no 
pne is an outcast but who casts himself out, a self^ 
immolation, a suicide. 

But is it destiny ? it may be asked. May there not 
be an after-probation, so that character itself may be 
transformed?, may not the "great gulf" itself disap*- 
pear, or at last be bridged over, so that the ^repentant 
paay pass out of its penal but purifying fires ? Such, 
indeed,, is the belief, or rather the hope, of some; but 
" the larger hope" as they are pleased to call it, as- far 
as thi$ Gospel is concerned, i& a beautiful but illusive 


dream. He who was Himself the " Resurrection and 
the Life," and who holds in His own hands the keys 
of death and of Hades, gives no hint of such a post- 
humous palingenesis. He speaks again and again of 
a day of test and scrutiny, when actions will be weighed 
and characters assayed, and when men will be judged 
according to their works. Now it is at the " coming " 
of the Son of man, in the glory of His Father, and 
with a retinue of " holy angels ; " now it is the return- 
ing of the lord, and the reckoning with his servants ; 
while again it is at the end of the world, as the angel- 
reapers separate the wheat from the tares ; or as He 
Himself, the great Judge, with His " Come ye," passes 
on the faithful to the heavenly kingdom, and at the 
same time, with His "Depart ye," drives from His 
presence the unfaithful and unforgiven into the outer 
darkness. Nor does Jesus say one word to suggest 
that the judgment is not final. The blasphemy against 
the Holy Ghost, whatever that may mean, shall not 
be forgiven (xii. 10), or, as St. Matthew expresses it, 
" neither in this world, nor in that which is to come." 
The unfaithful servant is " cut asunder " (xii. 46) ; the 
enemies who would not have their Lord to reign over 
them are slain (xix. 27) ; and when once the door is 
shut it is all in vain that those outside cry, " Lord, 
open to us 1 " They had an open door, but they 
slighted and scorned it, and now they must abide by 
their choice, outside the door, outside the kingdom, 
with the "workers of iniquity," where " there is weep- 
ing and gnashing of teeth " (xiii. 28). 

Or if we turn again to the parable of the Rich Man, 
where is there room for "the larger hope"?, where 
is the suggestion that these " pains of hell " may f be 
lessened, and ultimately escaped altogether ? We listen 


in vain forgone syllable of hope. In vain he makes 
his appeal to " father Abraham ; " in vain he entreats 
the good offices of Lazarus; in vain he asks for a 
momentary alleviation of his pain, in the boon of one 
drop of water: between him and help, yea, between 
him and hope, is a " great gulf fixed, . . . that none 
may cross " (xvi. 26). 

" That none may cross." Such are the words of 
Jesus, though here put in the mouth of Abraham ; and 
if finality is not here, where can we find it ? What 
may be the judgment passed upon those who, though 
erring, are ignorant, we cannot tell, though Jesus 
plainly indicates that the number of the stripes will 
vary, as they knew, or they did not know, the Lord's 
will ; but for those who had the light, and turned from 
it, who saw the right, but did it not, who heard the 
Gospel of love, with its great salvation, and only rejected 
it for these there is only an " outer darkness " of 
eternal hopelessness. And what is the outer darkness 
itself but the darkness of their own inner blindness, 
a blindness which was wilful and persistent ? 

Our Gospel thus teaches that death does not alter 
character, that character makes destiny, and that 
destiny once determined is unalterable and eternal. 
Or, to put it in the words of the angel to the seer, " He 
that is unrighteous, let him do unrighteousness still : 
and he that is filthy, let him be made filthy still : and 
he that is righteous, let him do righteousness still : 
and he that is holy, let him be made holy still " (Rev 
xxii. il). 



T TITHERTQ the life of Jesus has been com- 
.L JL paratively free from sorrow and from pain. 
With the exception of the narrow strip of wilderness 
which fell .between the Baptism and His inaugural 
miracle, the Divine Life has .lain for the most part in 
the sunshine, above the fret and fever of anxious 
thought and care. True, He had enemies, whose hatred 
was persistent and virulent ; the shafts of calumny fell 
around Him in one steady rain ; His motives were 
constantly misconstrued, His words misunderstood ; but 
with all this His life was peace. How could He 
have spoken of " rest " of soul, and have promised it 
to the weary and heavy-laden, if He Himself were a 
stranger to^its experience? How could He have awoke 
such songs ^and shouts of gladness, or have strewn the 
lives of men, with such unusual brightness, without 
having that brightness and music coming back in 
reflections and echoes within His own heart that 
heart which was the fontal source of their new-found 
joys ? And if many doubted, or even hated Him; 
there were many who admired and feared, aad not a 
few who loved and adored Him, and who were glad to 
place at His disposal their entire substance, nay, their 
entire selves. But if His anointing thus far has been the 
anointing of gladness, there is a baptism of sorrow and 


anguish prepared for Him, and to that ordeal He now 
proceeds, first girding up His soul with the music of 
a thanksgiving psalm. Let us, too, arise and follow 
Him ; but taking off our shoes, let us step softly and 
reverently into the mystery of the Divine sorrow ; for 
though we must ever stand back from that mystery 
more than a " stone's cast/' perhaps, if we keep mind 
and heart awake and alert, we may read something -of 
its deep meaning. 

The whole scene of Gethsemane is unique. Like 
the Mount of Transfiguration, the Garden of the Agony 
stands "apart" from all other paths, in a profound 
isolation. And in more senses than this these two 
august scenes are related and coincident. Indeed, we 
cannot fully understand the mystery of the Garden 
but as we allow the mystery of the Mount to explain 
it, in part at -least, so threading the light of the one 
into the darkness of the other. On the Mount of 
Transfiguration the Divine Life, as we have seen, 
reached its culminating point, its perihelion as we 
may call it, where it touched the very heavens for one 
brief night, passing through its outrstreaming glories 
and crossing the paths of celestials. In Gethsemane 
we have the antipodal fact ; we see the Divine Life in< 
its far aphelion, where it touches hell itself, moving 
round in an awful gloom, and crossing the paths of the 
" powers }f darkness," And so our best outlook into 
Gethsemlane is not from the Mount of Olives though 
the two names are related, as the two places are 
adjacent, Gethsemane lying at the foot of Olivet but 
from that more distant Mount of Transfiguration. ; 

Leaving the "guest-chamber," where a Passover of 
a new order has been instituted, and the cup, with its 
fruit of the vine, has received a higher consecration; 


Jesus leads the broken band down the stairs, which 
still vibrate with the heavy tread of the traitor, and 
in the still, full moonlight they pass out of the city, 
the gates being open because of the Passover. De- 
scending the steep ravine, and crossing the brook 
Kedron, they enter the enclosure of Gethsemane. Both 
St. Luke and St. John tell us that He was accustomed 
to resort thither for, strangely enough, we do not read 
of Jesus spending so much as one night within the 
city walls and so probably the garden belonged to 
one of His adherents, possibly to St. Mark. Bidding 
the eight remain* near the entrance, and exhorting 
them to pray that they enter not into, or, as it means 
here, that they "yield not to," the temptation which 
is shortly to come upon them, Jesus takes Peter, James, 
and John farther into the garden. They were witnesses 
of His Transfiguration, when His face shone like the 
sun, and the spirits of the perfected came to do Him 
homage ; they must now see a transfiguration of 
sorrow, as that face is furrowed by the sharp lines of 
pain, and half-masked by a veil of blood. From the 
narratives of St. Matthew and St. Mark it would 
appear as if Jesus now experienced a sudden change 
of feeling. In the guest-chamber He was calmly con- 
fident; and though we may detect in His words and 
symbolic acts a certain undertone of sadness, the 
salutation of one "about to die/ 1 yet there was no 
tremor, no fear. He spoke of His own death, which 
now was near at hand, as calmly as if the Mount of 
Sacrifice were but another mountain of spices'; while 
to His disciples He spoke words of cheer and hope, 
putting around their hearts a soothing, healing balm, 
even before the dreadful wound is made. But now all 
this is changed ; " He began to be greatly amazed and 


sore troubled " (St. Mark xiv. 33). The word we here 
render "amazed," as St. Mark uses it, has sometimes 
the element of fear within it, as when the women were 
" amazed," or " affrighted," by the vision of the angels 
(xvi. 5); and such, we are inclined to think, is its 
meaning here. It was not so much wonder as it was 
trepidation, and a certain dread, which now felt of a 
sudden upon the Master. Over that pure soul, which 
ever lay calm and serene as the bright heaven which 
stooped to embrace it, has broken a storm of conflicting 
winds, and dense, murky clouds, and all is disquiet and 
distress, where before was nothing but peace. "My 
soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death ; " such is 
the strange confession of tremulous lips, as for once 
He opens the infinite depths of His heart, and shows 
the mortal grief which has suddenly fallen there. It 
is the first contact of the eclipse, as between Himsell 
and the Father's smile another world is passing, the 
world of the "outer darkness," even hell, throwing 
down upon His soul a chilling, awful shadow. 

Jesus understands its meaning. It is the signal for 
the final battle, the shadow of " the prince of this 
world," who, rallying all his forces, cometh to find 
"nothing in Me." Jesus accepts the challenge, and 
that He may meet the enemy single-handed, with no 
earthly supports, He bids the three, "Abide ye here, 
and watch with Me." " With Me," and not " for Me ; " 
for what could avail to Him the vigilance of human 
eyes amid this felt darkness of the soul ? It was not 
for Himself He bade them " watch/' but for themselves, 
that waking and praying they might gain a strength 
which would be proof against temptation, the test which 
would be keenly severe, and which now was close at 


"And He was parted from them about a stone's 
cast." The verb implies a measure of constraint, as 
if, in the conflict of emotion, the longing for some 
human presence and human sympathy held Him back. 
And why not? Is not the very presence of a friend 
a solace in grief, even if no words are spoken ? and 
does -not the " aloneness " of a sorrow make the sorrow 
tenfold more bitter ? Not like the <{ stricken deer that 
left the herd," the human heart, when wounded or sore 
pressed, yearns for sympathy, finding in the silent 
look or in the touch of a hand a grateful anodyne. 
But this wine-press He must tread alone, and of the 
people there must be none with Him ; and so the 
three who are most favoured and most beloved are 
left back at a stone's cast from the physical suffering 
of Christ, while from His heart-agony they must stand 
back at an infinite distance. 

It was while, Jesus was praying upon the holy 
mount that the heavens were opened unto Him ; and 
now, as another cloud envelopes Him, not of glory, but 
of a thick darkness, it finds Him in the same attitude 
of prayer. He at whose feet sinful man had knelt, all 
unrebuked, Himself now kneels, as He sends to heaven 
the earnest and almost bitter cry, " O My Father, if 
it be possible, let this cup pass from Me 1 " The three 
Evangelists differ in their wording of the Saviour's 
petition, showing that the spirit is more than the 
letter of prayer ; that Heaven thinks more of the inner 
thought than of the outward drapery of words; but 
the thought of the three is identical, while all make 
prominent the central figure of the " cup*" 

The cups of Scripture are of divers patterns and of 
varied meanings. There was the cup of blessing, like 
that of the Psalmist (Psalm xxiii. 5), filled to the brim 


and running over with mercy. There was "the cup of 
salvation, "that sacrament of the Old Testament which 
kept in memory one deliverance, that of Israel, while it 
prophesied of another, the " great salvation " which was 
to come. What, then, was the cup Jesus so feared to 
drink, and which He asked, so earnestly and repeatedly, 
that it might pass from Him ? Was it the fear of 
death ? Certainly not ; for how could He be afraid 
of death, who had so triumphed over it, and who had 
proclaimed Himself the Resurrection and the Life ? 
How could He fear death, when He knew so well " the 
seraph face that smiled beneath the frowning mask," 
and knew that it would end for ever all His sufferings 
and His pain ? Death to Him was a familiar thought. 
He spoke of it freely, not either with the hard in- 
difference of the Stoic, or with the palsied speech of 
one whose lips shake with an inward fear, but in calm, 
sweet accents, as any child of earth might speak of 
going home. Was this "cup," then, the death itself? 
and when He asked that it might pass away, was He 
suggesting that possibly some mode of atonement might 
be found other than the cross ? We think not. Jesus 
knew full well that His earthly life would have, and 
could have, but one issue. Death would be its goal, 
as it was its object. Whether, as Holman Hunt 
represents, the cross threw its shadow back as far as 
the shop at Nazareth, we do not know, for th record 
is silent. But we do know that the shadow of death 
lay across the whole of His public life, for we find it 
appearing in His words. The cross was a dark and 
vivid certainty that He wished neither to forget nor 
to evade, for must not the Son of man be "lifted up/ 1 
that He may draw all men to Himself ? Must not the 
corn of wheat be hidden in its grave before it can 



become fruitful, throwing itself forward down the years 
in hundredfold multiplications ? Yes ; death to Jesus 
is the inevitable, and long before the Roman soldiers 
have pieced together the transverse beams Jesus had 
made His cross, fashioning it in His thought, and 
hiding it in His words. Nay, He has this very night 
instituted a new sacrament, in which, for all genera- 
tions, the broken bread shall be the emblem of His 
bruised and broken body, and the, wine, of His blood, 
the blood of the New Testament, which is shed for 
man. And does Jesus now seek, by reiterated prayers, 
to shift that cross from the Divine purpose, substi- 
tuting in its place something less painful, less cruel ? 
does He seek now to annul His owh predictions, and 
to make His own sacrament void and meaningless? 
This cannot be ; and so, whatever the " cup " may 
mean, we cannot take it as a synonym for His 

What, then, is its meaning ? The Psalmist had long 
before sung 

" For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine foameth ; 
It is full of mixture, and He poureth out of the same : 
Surely the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring 
them out, and drink them " (Psalm bocv. 8) ; 

while St. John, speaking of the last woes (Rev. xiv. 10), 
tells how they who have the mark of the beast upon 
their foreheads " shall drink of the wine of the wrath 
of God, which is prepared unmixed in the cup of His 
anger." Here, then, is the " cup " which, now is set 
before the Son of man, the very touch of which fills 
His soul with unutterable dread, It is the cup of God's 
anger, filled to the brim with its strange red wine, the 
wine of His wrath. Jesus comes to earth as the Re- 


presentative Man, the Second Adam, in whom all shall 
be made alive. He voluntarily assumes the place of 
the transgressor, as St. Paul writes (2 Cor. v. 21), " Him 
who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf; that 
we might become the righteousness of God in Him," 
a passage which corresponds exactly with the prophetic 
idea of substitution, as given by Isaiah (liii. 5), "He 
was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for 
our iniquities : the chastisement of our peace was upon 
Him; and with His stripes we are healed." And so 
" the iniquity of us all " was laid on Him, the Holy One. 
In His own Person He must feel, in its concentrated 
forms, the smart and consequence of sin ; and as His 
physical sufferings are the extremest pain even sin can 
produce, so Jesus must suffer, too, all the mental anguish, 
the agony of a soul bereft of God. And as Jesus, on 
the Transfiguration Mount, passed up to the -very gate 
of heaven, so lighting up with splendour and glory the 
lost path of,unfallen man, so now, in the Garden, Jesus 
tracks the path of fallen man, right on to its fearful 
consummation, which is the " outer darkness " of hell 
itself. This vivid consciousness has been graciously 
withheld from Him hitherto ; for the terrible pressure 
would simply have unfitted Him for His ministry of 
blessing; for how could He have been the "kindly 
Light/' leading humanity homeward, heavenward, if 
that Light Himself were hidden in "encircling gloom," 
and lost in a felt darkness ? But ere His mission is 
complete this is an experience that He must know- 
Identifying Himself with sin, He 'must feel its very 
farthest consequence, the awful solitude, and the un- 
utterable anguish, of a soul now bereft of hope and 
forsaken of God. In the heathen fable Orpheus goes 
down, lyre in hand, to the Plutonic realm, to bring 


back again to, life and love the lost Eurydice ; but 
Jesus, in His vicarious sufferings, goes down to hell 
itself, that He. may win back from their sins, and bear 
in triumph to the upper heavens, a lost humanity. 
v * Rising from the ground, and going back to His three 
disciples, He finds them asleep. The Synoptists all 
seek to explain, and to apologize for, their unnatural 
slumber, St. Matthew and St. Mark telling us that 
their "eyes were heavy," while St. Luke states that 
their sleep was the result .of their grief; for, happily, 
in the wonderful compensations of nature, intense grief 
does tend to induce somnolence. But while the Evan- 
gelists refer their slumber to natural causes, might there 
not be something more in it, some supernatural ele- 
ment ? Sleep caused by natural means, and yet; 
be an unnatural sleep, as when narcotics benumb the 
senses, or some mesmeric spell muffles the speech, and 
makes the soul for a time unconscious. And might it 
not have been some .invisible; touch which made their 
eyes so heavy ? for it is an exact repetition of their 
attitude when on the holy mount, and in that sleep 
sorrow certainly : had no part. When St. John, saw 
the vision upofi Patmos, he "fell at His feet as one 
dead;' 7 and when Saul beheld the light, near Damascus,, 
he fell to the ground. And how often we find tjie celes- 
tial vision connected with a trance-like state ! arid why 
may not the " trance " be an effect of the vision, just as 
well as its cause, or rather its circumstance ? At any 
rate, the fact is plain, that supernatural visions tend to 
lock up the natural senses, the veil which is uplifted 
before the unseen world being wrapped around the eyes 
and the soul of the seen And this, we are inclined to 
think, was a possible, partial cause for the slumber upon 
the mount and in the garden, a sleep which, under 


circumstances, was strangely unnatural and almost 

Addressing Himself directly to Peter, who had 
promised to follow His Lord unto death, but whose 
heart now strangely lagged behind, and calling him by 
his earlier name for Jesus only once made use of the 
name He Himself had chosen ; the " Rock " was at 
present in a state of flux, and had not yet settled down 
to its petrine character He said, " What, Simon, could 
ye not watch with Me one hour ? Watch and pray, that 
ye enter not into temptation." Then, for a moment 
forgetting His own sorrow, and putting Himself in 
their place, He makes the apology for them which 
their lips are afraid to utter : " The spirit indeed is 
willing, but the flesh is weak ; " so compassionate is He 
over human weakness and infirmity, even while He is 
severity itself towards falsity and sin. 

St Luke records the narrative only in a condensed 
form, giving us the salient points, but not entering so 
fully into detail. It is from St. Matthew and St. Mark that 
we learn how Jesus went back a second time, and falling 
prostrate on the ground, prayed still in the self-same 
words, and how He returned to His disciples to find 
them again asleep ; even the reproof of the Master has 
not been able to counterbalance the* pressure of the 
supernatural heaviness. No word is spoken this time 
at any rate the Evangelists have not repeated them for 
us but how eloquent would be that look of disappoint- 
ment and of grief I and how that rebuke would fall 
burning hot upon their heart, focussed in ttie lenses of 
His sad and tearful eyes I But 'the three are dazed, 
bewildered, and for once the ready tongue of Peter is 
speechless ; " they wist hot what to answer Him " 
(Mark xiv. 40). 


Not yet, however, is the conflict ended. Three times 
did the tempter come to Him in the wilderness, and 
three times is the fierce battle to be waged in the 
garden, the last the sorest. It would almost seem as 
if the three assaults were descending steps of sorrow, 
each marking some lower deep in the dark mystery ; 
for now the death-sorrow becomes an l( agony " of 
spirit, a pressure from within so fearful as to arrest 
the flow of blood, forcing it through the opened pores 
in an awful sweat, until great drops, or "clots/' of 
blood gathered upon His face, and thcjn fell to the 
ground. Could there be possibly, even for the lost, 
an anguish more intense ? and was not Jesus then, 
as man's Surety, wringing out and drinking the very 
last dregs of that cup of His anger which " the wicked 
of the earth," if unredeemed, had been doomed to 
drink ? Verily He was, and the bloody sweat was a 
part, an earnest, of our atonement, sprinkling with its 
redemptive virtues the very ground which was " cursed" 
for man's sake (Gen. iii. 17). It was the pledge and 
the foregathered fruit of a death already virtually accom- 
plished, in the absolute surrender of the Divine Son 
as man's Sacrifice. 

And so the thrice-uttered prayer of Jesus, even 
though He prayed the "more earnestly/' was not 
granted. It was heard, and it was answered, but not 
in the specific way of the request. Like Paul's prayer 
for the removal of the thorn, and which, though not 
granted, was yet answered in the promise of the 
" sufficient" grace, so now the thrice-uttered prayer 
of Jesus does not remove the cup. It is there, and it 
is there for Him to drink, as He tastes for man both of 
the earthly death and of the bitterness of the after, the 
second deat'i. But tho answer came in the strength- 


ening of His soul, and in the heavenly greetings the 
angel brought down to Him when the conflict was over. 
But in this reiterated prayer for the removal of the cup 
there was no conflict between Himself and the Father. 
The request itself was enveloped in submission, the 
contingent "if" which preceded it, and the "not My 
will, but Thine," which followed, completely enclosing 
it. The will of Jesus was ever adjusted to the will of 
the Father, working within it in an absolute precision, 
with no momentary breaks. But here the " if" implies 
uncertainty, doubt. Even Jesus is not quite sure as 
to what, in the special case, the Father's will may 
involve, and so, while He asks for the removal of the 
cup, this is the smaller request, inlaid within the 
larger, deeper prayer, that " not My will, but Thine, 
be done." Jesus did not seek to bend the Father's will, 
and make it conform to His desires, but He sought, 
whatever might be the cost, to configure His desires 
to that all-wise and all-loving Will. 

So in our smaller lives there may be hours of distress 
and uncertainty. We may see, mingled for us, cups of 
sorrow, loss, or pain, which we fear to drink, and the 
shrinking flesh may seek to be exempted from the 
ordeal ; but let us not too hastily ask that they may 
be put away, for fear we may dismiss some cup of 
blessing from our life. Let us seek rather for a perfect 
submission to the will of God, conforming all our 
desires and all our prayers to that will. So in that 
" perfect acquiescence " there will be for us a " perfect 
rest." Gethsemane itself will become bright and all 
musical with songs, and where the powers of darkness 
mocked us Heaven's angels will come, with their sweet 
ministry. Nay, the cup of sorrow and of pain, at which 
we trembled before, if we see how God's will has 


wrought and filled it, and we embrace that will, the 
cup of sorrow will be a transfigured cup, a golden 
chalice of the King, all filled to the brim, and running 
over, with the new wine of the kingdom. 


LUKE xxii. 47 xxiii. 

WHILE Jesus kept His sad watch in Gethsemane, 
treading the winepress alone, His enemies kept 
theirs in the city. The step of Judas, as he passed 
out into the night, went verberating within the house 
of the high priest, and onwards into the palace of Pilate 
himself, awaking a thousand echoes, as swift mes- 
sengers flew hither and thither, bearing the hurried 
summons, calling the rulers and elders from their 
repose, and marshalling the Roman cohort. Hitherto 
the powers of darkness have been restrained, and 
though they have, again and again, attempted the life 
of Jesus, as if some occult spell were upon them, they 
could not accomplish their purpose. Far back in the 
Infancy Herod had sought to kill Him ; but though his 
cold steel reaped a bloody swath in Ramah, it could 
not touch the Divine Child. The men of Nazareth had 
sought to hurl Him down the sheer precipice, but He 
escaped ; Jesus had not come into the world to die at 
Nazareth, thrown off, as by an accident, from a Galilean 
cliff. He had come to " accomplish His decease/' as 
the celestials put it upon the mount, "at Jerusalem/ 
and that too, as He indicated plainly and frequently in 


His speech, upon a cross. Now, however, the hour of 
darkness has struck, and the fulness of the time has 
come. The cross and the Victim both are ready, and 
Heaven itself consents to the great sacrifice. 

Strangely enough, the first overture of the " Passion 
music" is by one of the twelve as our Evangelist 
names him, "Judas who was called Iscariot, being of 
the number of the twelve " (xxii. 3). It will be 
observed that St. Luke puts a parenthesis of forty 
verses between the actual betrayal and its preliminary 
stages, so throwing the conception of the plot back to 
an earlier date than the eve of the Last Supper, and 
the subsequent narrative is best read in the light of its 
programme. At first sight it would appear as if the 
part of the betrayer were superfluous, seeing that Jesus 
came almost daily into the Temple, where He spoke 
openly, without either reserve or fear. What need 
could there be for any intermediary to come between 
the chief priests and the Victim of their hate ? Was 
not His Person familiar to all the Temple officials ? and 
could they not apprehend Him almost at any hour ? 
Yes, but one thing stood in the way, and that was 
" the fear of the people." Jesus evidently had an 
influential following ; the popular sympathies were on 
His side; and had the attack been made upon Him 
during the day, in the thronged streets of the city or 
in the Temple courts, there would have been, almost to 
a certainty, a popular rising on His behalf. The arrest 
must be made "in the absence of the multitude " (xxii. 
6), which means that they must fall upon Him in one 
of His quiet hours, and in one of His. quiet retreats; 
it must be a night attack, when the multitudes are 
asleep. Here, then, is room for the betrayer, who comes 
at the opportune moment, and offers himself for the 

xxii.47 xsiii.] THE PASSION. 379 

despicable task, a task which has made the name of 
" Judas " a synonym for all that is treacherous and vile. 
How the base thought could ever have come into the 
mind of Judas it were hard to tell, but it certainly was 
not sprung upon him as a surprise. But men lean in 
the direction of their weakness, and when they fall it 
is generally on their weakest side, the side on which 
temptation is the strongest. It was so here. St. John 
writes him down in a single sentence : " He was a thief, 
and having the bag, took away what was put therein " 
(John xii. 6). His ruling passion was the love of 
money, and in the delirium of this fever his hot hands 
dashed to the ground and broke in pieces the tables of 
law and equity alike, striking at all the moralities. And 
between robbing his Master and betraying Him there 
was no great distance to traverse, especially when 
conscience lay in a numb stupor, drugged by opiates, 
these tinctures of silver. 

Here, then, is a betrayer ready to their hand. He 
knows what hour is best, and how to conduct them to 
His secret retreats. And so Judas " communed'' with 
the chief priests and captains, or he " talked it over 
with them " as the word means, the secret conference 
ending in a bargain, as they " covenanted " to give hijn 
money (xxii. 5). It was a hard and fast bargain ; for 
the word " covenanted " has about it a metallic- ring, 
and opening it out, it lets us see the wordy chaffering, 
as Judas abates his price to the offer of the high priests, 
the thirty pieces of silver, which was the market price 
of an ordinary slave. Not that Judas intended to be a 
participator in His death, as the sequel of his remorse 
shows. He probably thought and hoped that his 
Master would escape, slipping through the meshes they 
so cunningly had thrown about Him ; but having done 


his part of the covenant, his reward would be sure, for 
the thirty pieces were already in his possession. Ah, 
he little dreamed how far-reaching his action would be ! 
That silver key of his would set in motion the pon- 
derous wheel which would not stop until his Master 
was its Victim, lying all crushed and bleeding beneath 
it! He only discovered his mistake when, alas! it 
was too late for remedy. Gladly would he have given 
back his thirty pieces, ay, and thirty times thirty, to 
have called back his treacherous " Hail," but he could 
not. That " Hail, Master," had gone beyond his recall, 
reverberating down the ages and up among the stars, 
while ' even its echoes, as they came back to him in 
painful memories, threw him out of the world an 
unloved and guilty suicide ! 

What with the cunning of the high priests and the 
cold calculations of Judas, whose mind was practised 
in weighing chances and providing for contingences, 
the plot is laid deeply and well. No detail is omitted : 
.the band of soldiers, who shall put the stamp of official^ 
ism upon the procedure, while at the same time they 
cower the populace and repress any attempt at rescue ; 
the swords and staves, should they have to resort to 
force ; the lanterns and torches, with which to light up 
the dark hiding-places of the garden ; the cords or 
chains, with which to bind their Prisoner; the kiss, 
which should be at once the sign of recognition and 
the signal for the arrest, all are prearranged and 
provided ; while back of these the high priests are keep* 
ing their midnight watch, ready for the mock trial, for 
which the suborned witnesses are even now rehearsing 
their -parts. Could worldly prudence or malicious skill 
go farther ? 

Stealthily as the leopard approaches its victim, the 

xxii.47 xxiii.] - THE PASSION. 381. 

motley crowd enter the garden, coming with muffled 
steps to take and lead away the Lamb of God. Only 
the glimmer of their torches gave notice of their ap- 
proach, and even these burned dull in the intense 
moonlight. But Jesus needed no audible or visible 
warning, for He Himself knew just how events were 
drifting, reading the near future as plainly as the^near 
past; and before they have come in sight He has 
awoke the three sleeping sentinels with a word which 
will effectually drive slumber from their eyelids : " Arise, 
let us be going : behold, he is at hand that betrayeth 
Me " (Matt. xxvi. 46). 

It will be seen from this that Jesus could easily have 
eluded His pursuers had He cared to do so. Even 
Without any appeal to His supernatural powers, He 
could have withdrawn Himself under cover of the 
night, and have left the human sleuth-hounds foiled of 
their prey and vainly baying at the moon. But instead 
of this, He makes no attempt at flight. He even seeks 
the glades of Gethsemane, when by simply going 
elsewhere He might have disconcerted their plot and 
brought their counsel to nought. And now He yields 
Himself up to His death, not passively merely,. 'but 
with the entire and active concurrence of His will He 
" offered Himself," as the writer of the Epistle to the 
Hebrews expresses it (Heb. ix. 14), a free-will Offering, 
a voluntary Sacrifice. He could, as He Himself said, 
have called legions of angels to His help ; but He would 
not give the signal, though it were no more than one 
uplifted look. And so He does not refuse even the 
kiss of treachery ; He suffers the hot lips of the traitor 
to burn His cheeks; and when others would have 
shaken off the viper into the fire, or have crushed it 
With the heel of a righteous indignation, Jesus receives 


patiently the stamp of infamy, His only word being a 
question of surprise, not at the treachery itself, but at 
its mode : " Betrayest thou the Son of man with a 
kiss ? " And when for the moment, as St. John tells 
us, a strange awe fell upon the multitude, and they 
"went backward and fell to the ground," Jesus, as it 
were, called in the outshining glories, masking them 
with the tired and blood-stained humanity that He 
wore, so stilling the tremor that was upon His enemies, 
as He nerved the very hands that should take Him. 
And again, when they do bind Him, He offers no resist- 
ance ; but when Peter's quick sword flashes from its 
scabbard, and takes off the right ear of Malchus, the 
servant of the high priest, and so one of the leaders 
in the arrest, Jesus asks for the use of His manacled 
hand for so we read the "Suffer ye thus far" and 
touching the ear, heals it at once. He Himself is 
willing to be wounded even unto death, but His 
alone must be the wounds. His enemies must not 
share His pain, nor must His disciples pass with 
Him into this temple of His sufferings ; and He even 
stays to ask for them a free parole : " Let these go 
their way." 

But while for the disciples Jesus has but words of 
tender rebuke or of prayer, while for Malchus He has 
a word and a touch of mercy, and while even for Judas 
He has an endearing epithet, "friend/' for the chief 
priests, captains, and elders He has severer words. 
They are the ringleaders, the plotters. All this com- 
motion, this needless parade of hostile strength, these 
superfluous insults are but the foaming of their rabid 
frenzy, the blossoming of their malicious hate; and 
turning to them as they stand gloating in their super- 
cilious scorn, He asks, " Are ye come out, as against a 

sxii. 47 xxiii.] r# PASSION. 383 

robber, with swords and staves ? When I was daily 
with you iii the Temple, ye stretched not forth your 
hands against Me : but this is your hour, and the power 
of darkness." True words, for they who should have 
been priests of Heaven are in league with hell, willing 
ministers of the powers of darkness. And this was 
indeed their hour, but the hour of their victory would 
prove the hour of their doom. 

St. Luke, as do the other Synoptists, omits the 
preliminary trial before Annas, the ex-high priest 
(John xviii. 13), and leads us direct to the palace of 
Caiaphas, whither they conduct Jesus bound. Instead, 
however, of pursuing the main narrative, he lingers to 
gather up the side-lights of the palace-yard, as they 
cast a lurid light upon the character of Simon. Some 
time before, Jesus had forewarned him of a coming 
ordeal, and which He called a Satanic sifting; while 
only 'a few hours ago He had prophesied that this 
night, before the cock should crow twice, Peter would 
thrice deny Him a singular prediction, and one which 
at the time seemed most unlikely, but which proved 
true to the very letter. After the encounter in the 
garden, Peter retires from our sight for awhile; but 
his flight was neither far nor long, for as the procesr 
sion moves up towards the city Peter and John follow 
it as a rear-guard, on to the house of Annas, and now 
to the house of Caiaphas. We need not repeat the 
details of the story how John passed him through the 
door into the inner court, and how he sat, or " stood," 
as St. John puts it, by the charcoal fire, warming him- 
self with the officers and servants. The differing verbs 
only show the restlessness of the man, which was a 
life-long characteristic of Peter, but which would be 
doubly accentuated here, with suspecting eyes focussed 


upon him. Indeed, in the whole scene of the court- 
yardj as sketched for us in the varying but not dis- 
cordant narratives of the Evangelists, we may detect 
the vibrations of constant movement and the ripple- 
marks, of intense excitement. 

When challenged the first time, by the maid who 
kept the door, .Peter answered with a sharp, blunt 
negative: he was not a. disciple; he did not even 
know Him. At the second challenge, by another 
maid, he replied with an absolute denial, but added to 
his denial the confirmation of an oath. At the third 
challenge, .by one of the men standing near, he denied 
as before, but added- to his denial both an oath and an 
anathema. It is rather unfortunate that our version 
renders it (Matt. xxvi. 74; Mark xiv. 71), "He began to 
curse and to swear ; " for these words have a peculiarly 
ill savour, a taste of Billingsgate, which the original- 
words have not. To our ear, li to curse and to swear" 
are the accomplishments of a loose and a foul tongue, 
which throws out its fires of passion in profanity, or in 
coarse obscenities, as it revels in immoralities of speech. 
The words in the New Testament, however, have a 
meaning altogether different. Here (t to swear " means 
to take an oath, as, in our courts of law, or rather to 
make an affirmation. Even God Himself is spoken of as 
swearing, as in the song of Zacharias (i. 73), where 
.He is said to have remembered His holy covenant, 
"the oath which He sware unto Abraham our father." 
Indeed, this form of speech, the oath or affirmation, 
had come into too general use, as we may see from the 
paragraph upon oaths in the Sermon on the Mount 
(Matt. v. 33-37). Jesus here condemned it, it is true, 
for to Him who was Truth itself our word should be as 
,our bond; but His reference to it shows how prevalent 

xxii. 47 xxiii.] ' THE PASSION. 385 

the custom was, even amongst strict legalists and 
moralists. When, then, Peter "swore," it does not mean 
that he suddenly became profane, but simply that he 
backed up his denial with a solemn affirmation. So, 
too, with the word "curse;" it has not our modern 
meaning. Literally rendered, it would be, "He put 
himself under an anathema," which " anathema " was 
the bond or penalty he was willing to pay if his words 
should not be true. In Acts xxiii. 12 we have the 
cognate word, where the "anathema" was, "They would 
neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul." The 
"curse" thus was nothing immoral in itself; it was a 
form of speech even the purest might use, a sort of 
underlined affirmation. 

But though the language of Peter was neither prpfane 
nor foul, though in his "oath" and in his "curse" 
there is nothing for which the purest taste need 
apologize, yet here was his sin, his grievous sin : he 
made use of the oath and the curse to back up a 
deliberate and cowardly lie, even as men to-day will 
kiss the book to make God's Word of truth a cover 
for perjury. How shall we explain the sad fall of 
this captain-disciple, who was first and foremost of 
the Twelve? Were these denials but the "wild and 
wandering cries " of some delirium ? We find that 
Peter's lips did sometimes throw off unreasoning and 
untimely words, speaking like one in a dream, as he 
proposed the three tabernacles on the mount, "not 
knowing what he said." But this is no delirium, no 
ecstasy; his mind is clear as the sky overhead, his 
thought bright and sharp as was his sword just now. 
No, it was not a failure in the reason ; it was a sadder 
failure in the heart. Of physical courage Simon had 
an abundance, but he was somewhat deficient in moral 



courage. His surname- " Peter " was as yet but a fore- 
name, a prophecy ; for the " rock "-granite was yet in 
a state of flux, pliant, somewhat wavering, and too 
easily impressed. It must " be dipped in baths of hiss- 
ing tears" ere it hardens into the foundation-rock for 
the new temple. In the garden he was too ready, too 
brave. " Shall we smite with the sword ? " he asked, 
matching the "we," which numbered two swords, 
against a whole Roman cohort; but that was in the 
presence of his Master, and in the consciousness of 
strength which that Presence gave. It is different 
now. His Master is Himself a bound and helpless 
Prisoner. His own sword is taken from him, or, which 
is the same thing, it is ordered to its sheath. The 
bright dream of temporal sovereignty, which like a 
beautiful mirage had played on the horizon of his 
thought, had suddenly faded, withdrawing itself into 
the darkness. Simon is disappointed, perplexed, be- 
wildered, and with hopes shattered, faith stunned, and 
love itself in a momentary conflict with self-love, he 
loses heart and becomes demoralized, his better nature 
falling to pieces like a routed army. 

Such were the conditions of Peter's denial, the strain 
and pressure under which his courage and his faith 
gave way, and almost before he knew it he had thrice 
denied his Lord, tossing away the Christ he would die 
for on his cold, impetuous words, as, with a tinge of 
disrespect in his tone and word, he called Him "the 
Man." But hardly had the denial been made and the 
anathema been said when suddenly the cock crew. It 
was but the familiar call of an unwitting bird, but it 
smote upon Peter's ear like a near clap of thunder ; it 
brought to his mind those words of his Master, which 
he had thought were uncertain parable, but which he 

xxii. 47 xxiii.] THE PASSION. 387 

finds now were certain prophecy, and thus let in a 
rush of sweet, old-time memories. Conscience-stricken, 
and with a load of terrible guilt pressing upon his soul, 
he looks up timidly towards the Lord he has forsworn. 
Will He deny him, on one of His bitter "woes" cast- 
ing him down to the Gehenna he deserves? No; 
Jesus looks upon Peter; nay, He even "turns" round 
toward him, that He may look ; and as Peter saw that 
look, the face all streaked with blood and lined with an 
unutterable anguish, when he felt that glance fixed 
upon him- of an upbraiding but a pitying and forgiving 
love, that look of Jesus pierced the inmost soul of the 
denying, agnostic disciple, breaking up the fountains of 
his heart, and sending him out to weep "bitterly." 
That look was the supreme moment in Peter's life. It 
forgave, while it rebuked him; it passed through his 
nature like refining fire, burning out what was weak, 
and selfish and sordid, and transforming Simon, the 
boaster, the man of words, into Peter, the man of 
deeds, the man of "rock." 

But if in the outer court truth is thrown to the winds, 
within the palace justice herself is parodied. It would 
seem as if the first interview of Caiaphas with Jesus 
were private, or in the presence at most of a few 
personal attendants. But at this meeting, as the High 
Priest of the New was arraigned before the high priest 
of the Old Dispensation, nothing was elicited. Ques- 
tioned as to His disciples and as to His doctrine, Jesus 
maintained a dignified silence, only speaking to remind 
His pseudo-judge that there were certain rules of pro- 
cedure with which he himself was bound to comply. 
He would not enlighten him; what He had said He 
had said openly, in the Temple ; and if he wished to 
know he must appeal to those who heard Him, he must 


call his witnesses; an answer which brought Him a 
sharp and cruel blow from one of the officers, the first 
of a sad rain of blows which bruised His flesh and 
made His visage marred more than any man's. 

The private interview ended, the doors were thrown 
open to the mixed company of chief priests, elders, and 
scribes, probably the same as had witnessed the arrest, 
with others of the council who had been hastily sum- 
moned, and who were known to be avowedly hostile 
to Jesus. It certainly was not a properly constituted 
tribunal, a council of the Sanhedrim, which alone had 
the power to adjudicate on questions purely religious. 
It was rather a packed jury, a Star Chamber of self- 
appointed assessors. With the exception that witnesses 
were called (and even these were "false/ 7 with dis- 
crepant stories which neutralized their testimony and 
made it valueless), the whole proceedings were a hurried 
travesty of justice, unconstitutional, and so illegal. But 
such was the virulent hate of the hierarchy of the 
Temple, they were prepared to break through all 
legalities to gain their end; yea, they would even 
have broken the tables of the law themselves, if they 
might only have stoned the Nazarene with the frag- 
ments, and then have buried Him under the rude cairn. 
The only testimony they could find was that He had 
said He would destroy the temple made with hands, 
and in three days build another made without hands 
(Mark xiv. 58); and even in this the statements of 
the two witnesses did not agree, while both were 
garbled misrepresentations of the truth. 

Hitherto Jesus had remained silent, and when 
Caiaphas sprang from his seat, asking, " Answerest 
Thou nothing ? " seeking to extract some broken speech 
by the pressure of an imperious mien and browbeating 

xxii. 47 xxiii.] THE PASSION. 

words, Jesus answered by a majestic silence. Why 
should He cast His pearls before these swine, who 
were even now turning upon Him to rend Him ? But 
when the high priest asked, " Art Thou the Christ ? " 
Jesus replied, "If I tell you, ye will not believe: and 
if I ask you, ye will not answer. But from henceforth 
shall the Son of man be seated at the right hand of the 
power of God;" thus anticipating His enthronement 
far above all principalities and powers, in His eternal 
reign. The words "Son of man" struck with loud 
vibrations upon the ears of His enraged jurors, sug- 
gesting the antithesis, and immediately all speak at once, 
as they clamour, " Art Thou, then, the Son of God ?" 
a question which Caiaphas repeats as an adjuration, and 
which Jesus answers with a brief, calm, " Ye say that 
I am." It was a Divine confession, at once the con- 
fession of His Messiahship and a confession of His 
Divinity. It was all that His enemies wanted ; there 
was no need of further witnesses, and Caiaphas rent 
his clothes and asked his echoes of what the blasphemer 
was worthy? And opening their clenched teeth, his 
echoes shouted, "Death!" 

The lingering dawn had not broken when the high 
priest and his barking hounds had run their Prey down 
to death that is, as far as they were allowed to go ; 
and as the meeting of the full council could not be 
held till the broad daylight, the men who have Jesus 
in charge extemporize a little interlude of their own. 
Setting Jesus in the midst, they mock Him, and make 
sport of Him, heaping upon that Face, still streaked 
with its sweat of blood, all the indignities a malign 
ingenuity can suggest. Now they " cover His face " 
(Mark xiv. 65), throwing around it one of their loose 
robes; now they "blindfold" Him, and then strike 


"Him on the face" (xxii. 64), as they derisively ask 
that He will prophecy who smote Him ; while, again, 
they " spit in His face " (Matt. xxvi. 67), besmearing 
it with the venom of unclean, hissing lips ! And amid 
it all the patient Sufferer answers not a word ; He is 
silent, dumb, the Lamb before His shearers. 

Soon as the day had fairly broke, the Sanhedrists, 
with the chief priests, meet in full council, to give effect 
to the decision of the earlier conclave ; and since it 
is not in their power to do more, they determine to 
hand Jesus over to the secular power, going to Pilate 
in a body, thus giving their informal endorsement to 
the demand for His death. So now the scene shifts 
from the palace of Caiaphas to the Praetorium, a short 
distance as measured by the linear scale, but a far 
remove if we gauge thought or if we consider climatic 
influences. The palace of Caiaphas lay toward the 
Orient ; the Praetorium was a growth of the Occident, 
a bit of Western life transplanted to the once fruitful, 
but now sterile East. Within the palace the air was 
close and mouldy ; thought could not breathe, and 
religion was little more than a mummy, tightly bound 
by the grave-clothes of tradition, and all scented with 
old-time cosmetics. Within the Prsetorium the atmo- 
sphere was at least freer; there was more room to 
breathe ; for Rome was a sort of libertine in religion, 
finding room within her Pantheon for all the deities 
of this and almost any other world. In matters of 
religion the Roman power was perfectly indifferent, 
her only policy the policy of laisse faire ; and when 
Pilate first saw Jesus and His crowd of accusers he 
sought to dismiss them at once, remitting Him to be 
judged " according to your law/' putting, doubtless, an 
inflection of contempt upon the "your." It was not 

xxii.47 xxiii.] THE PASSION. 391 

until they had shifted the charge altogether, making 
it one of sedition instead of blasphemy, as they accuse 
Jesus of " perverting our nation, and forbidding to 
give tribute to Caesar," that Pilate took the case 
seriously in hand. But from the first his sympathies 
evidently were with the strange and lonely Prophet. 

Left comparatively alone with Pilate for the crowd 
would not risk the defilement of the Praetorium Jesus 
still maintained a dignified reserve and silence, not even 
speaking to Pilate's question of surprise, "Answerest 
Thou nothing ? " Jesus would speak no word in self- 
defence, not even to take out the twist His accusers 
had put into His words, as they distorted their meaning. 
When, however, He was questioned as to His mission 
and Royalty He spoke directly, as He had spoken before 
to Caiaphas, not, however, claiming to be King of the 
Jews, as His enemies asserted, but Lord of a kingdom 
which was not of this world ; mat is, not like earthly 
empires, whose bounds are mountains and seas, and 
whose thrones rest upon pillars of steel, the carnal 
weapons which first upbuild, and then support them. 
He was a King indeed ; but His re,alm was the wide 
realm of mind and heart ; His was a kingdom in which 
love was law, and love was force, a kingdom which 
had no limitations of speech, and no bounds, either of 
time or space. 

Pilate was perplexed and awed. Governor though 
he was, he mentally did homage before the strange 
Imperator whose nature was imperial, whatever His 
realm might be. "I find no fault in this Man," he 
said, attesting the innocence he had discovered in the 
mien and tones of his Prisoner; but his attestation 
only awoke a fiercer cry from the chief priests, " that He 
was a seditious person, stirring up the people, and 


preparing insurrection even from Galilee to Jerusalem." 
The word Galilee caught Pilate's ear, and at once 
suggested a plan that would shift the responsibility 
from himself. He would change the venue from Judaea 
to Galilee ; and since the Prisoner was a Galilean, he 
would send Him to the Tetrarch of Galilee, Herod, 
who happened to be in Jerusalem at the time. It was 
the stratagem of a wavering mind, of a man whose 
courage was not equal to his convictions, of a man 
with a double purpose. He would like to save his 
Prisoner, but he must save himself ; and when the two 
purposes came into collision, as they did soon, the 
"might" of a timid desire had to give way to the 
"must" of a prudential necessity; the Christ was 
pushed aside and nailed to a cross, that Self might 
survive and reign. And so " Pilate sent Him to 
Herod." ^ k 

Herod was proud to have this deference shown him 
in Jerusalem, and by his rival, too, and " exceeding 
glad " that, by a caprice of fortune, his long-cherished 
desire, which had been baffled hitherto, of seeing the 
Prophet of Galilee, should be realized. He found it, 
however, a disappointing and barren interview ; for 
Jesus would work no miracle, as he had hoped ; He 
would not even speak. To all the questions and threats 
of Herod, Jesus maintained a rigid and almost scornful 
silence ; and though to Pilate He had spoken at some 
length, Jesus would have no intercourse with the mur- 
derer of the Baptist. Herod had silenced the Voice 
of the wilderness ; he should not hear the Incarnate 
Word. Jesus thus set Herod at nought, counting him 
as a nothing, ignoring him purposely and utterly ; and 
stung with rage that his authority should be thus con- 
demned before the chief priests and scribes, Herod set 

xxii. 47 xxiii.] THE PASSION. 393 

his Victim " at nought," mocking Him in coarse banter ; 
and as if the whole proceeding were but a farce, a bit 
of comedy, he invests Him with one of his glittering 
robes, and sends the Prophet-King back to Pilate. 

For a brief space Jesus finds shelter by the judgment- 
seat, removed from the presence of His accusers, though 
still within hearing of their cries, as Pilate himself 
keeps the wolves at bay. Intensely desirous of acquit- 
ting his Prisoner, he leaves the seat of judgment to 
become His advocate. He appeals to their sense of 
justice ; that Jesus is entirely innocent of any crime or 
fault. They reply that according to their law He ought 
to die, because He called Himself the " Son of God." 
He appeals to their custom of having some prisoner 
released at this feast, and he suggests that it would be 
a personal favour if they would permit him to release 
Jesus. They answer, " Not this man, but Barabbas." 
He offers to meet them half-way, in a sort of com- 
promise, and out of deference to their wishes he will 
chastise Jesus if they will consent to let Him go ; but 
it is not chastisement they wantthey themselves could 
have done that but death. He appeals to their pity, 
leading Jesus forth, wearing the purple robe, as if to 
ask, "Is it not enough already ?" but they cry even 
more fiercely for His death. Then he yields so far to 
their clamour as to deliver up Jesus to be mocked and 
scourged, as the soldiers play at "royalty/ 1 arraying 
Him in the purple robe, putting a reed in His hand as 
a mock sceptre, and a crown of thorns upon His head, 
then turning to smite Him on the head, to spit in His 
face, and to kneel before Him in mock homage, saluting 
Him, " Hail, King of the Jews ! " And Pilate allows 
all this, himself leading Jesus forth in this mock array, 
as he bids the crowd, "Behold your King!" And why? 


has He experienced such a revulsion of feeling towards 
his Prisoner that he can now vie with the chief priests 
in his coarse insult of Jesus ? Not so ; but it is Pilate's 
last appeal. It is a sop thrown out to the mob, in hopes 
that' it may slake their terrible blood-thirst, a sacrifice 
of pain and shame which may perhaps prevent the 
greater sacrifice of life ; while at the same time it is an 
ocular demonstration of the incongruity of their charge ; 
for His Kingship, whatever it might be, was nothing 
the Roman power had to fear ; it was not even to be 
taken in a serious way ; it was a matter for ridicule, 
and not for revenge, something they could easily afford 
to play with. But this last appeal was futile as the 
others had been, and the crowd only became more 
fierce as they saw in Pilate traces of weakening and 
wavering. At last the courage of Pilate breaks down 
utterly before the threat that he will not be Caesar's 
friend if he let this man go, and he delivers up Jesus 
to their will, not, however, before he has called for 
water, and by a symbolic washing of his hands has 
thrown back, or tried to throw back, upon his accusers, 
the crime of shedding innocent blood. Weak, wavering 

" Making his high place the lawless perch 
Of winged ambitions ; " 

overridden by his fears ; governor, but governed by his 
subjects ; sitting on the judgment-seat, and then abdi- 
cating his position of judge; the personification of 
law, and condemning the Innocent contrary to the law ; 
giving up to the extremest penalty and punishment One 
whom he has thrice proclaimed as guiltless, without 
fault, and that, too, in the face of a Heaven-sent warn- 
ing dream ! In the wild inrush of his fears, which 
swept over him like an inbreaking sea, his own weak 

xxii. 47 xxiii.] THE PASSION. 395 

will was borne down, and reason, right, conscience, all 
were drowned. Verily Pilate washes his hands in 
vain ; he cannot wipe off his responsibility or wipe out 
the deep stains of blood. 

And now we come to the last act of the strange 
drama, which the four Evangelists give from their 
different stand-points, and so with varying but not 
differing details. We will read it mainly from the 
narrative of St. Luke. The shadow of the cross has 
long been a vivid conception of His mind, and again 
and again we can see its reflection in the current of 
His clear speech ; now, however, it is present to His 
sight, close at hand, a grim and terrible reality. It is 
laid upon the shoulder of the Sufferer, and the Victim 
carries His altar through the streets of the city and 
up towards the Mount of Sacrifice, until He faints 
beneath the burden, when the precious load is laid 
upon Simon the Cyrenian, who, coming out of the 
country, met the procession as it issued from the gate. 
It was probably during this halt by the way that the 
incident occurred, related only by our Evangelist, when 
the women who followed with the multitude broke out 
into loud lamentation and weeping, the first expression 
of human sympathy Jesus has received through all the 
agonies of the long morning. And even this sympathy 
He gave back to those who proffered it, bidding these 
" daughters of Jerusalem " weep not for Him, but for 
themselves and for their children, because of the day 
of doom which was fast coming upon their city and on 
them. Thus Jesus pushes from Him the cup of human 
sympathy, as afterwards He refused the cup of mingled 
wine and myrrh : He would drink the bitter draught 
unsweetened ; alone and all unaided He would wrestle 
with death, and conquer. 


It is somewhat singular that none of the Evangelists 
have left us a clue by which we can recognize, with 
any certainty, the scene of the Crucifixion. In our 
thoughts and in our songs Calvary is a mount, towering 
high among the mounts of God, higher than Sinai 
itself. And such it is, potentially ; for it has the sweep 
of all the earth, and touches heaven. But the Scrip- 
tures do not call it a "mount/' but only a "place." 
Indeed, the name of "Calvary" does not appear in 
Scripture, except as the Latin translation of the Greek 
Kranion, or the Hebrew Golgotha, both of which mean 
" the place of the skull" All that we can safely say 
is that it was probably some rounded eminence, as 
the name would indicate, and as modern explorations 
would suggest, on the north of the city, near the tomb 
of Jeremiah. 

But if the site of the cross is only given us in a 
casual way, its position is noted by all the Evangelists 
with exactness. It was between the crosses of two 
malefactors or bandits; as St. John puts it, in an 
emphatic, Divine tautology, "On either side one, and 
Jesus in the midst." Possibly they intended it as 
their last insult, heaping shame upon shame; but 
unwittingly they only fulfilled the Scripture, which had 
prophesied that He would be "numbered among the 
transgressors," and that He would make His grave 
" with the wicked " in His death. 

St. Luke omits several details, which St. John, who 
was an eye-witness, could give more fully; but he 
stays to speak of the parting of His raiment, and he 
adds, what the others omit, the prayer for His execu- 
tioners, " Father, forgive them ; for they know not what 
they do," an incident he probably had heard from one 
of the band of crucifiers, perhaps the centurion himself. 

mi. 47 xxiii,] THE PASSION. 397 

With a true artistic skill, however, and with brief 
touches, he draws for us the scene on which all ages 
will reverently gaze. In the foreground is the cross 
of Jesus, with its trilingual superscription, "This is 
the King of the Jews ; " while close beside it are the 
crosses of the thieves, whose very faces St. Luke 
lights up with life and character. Standing near are 
the soldiers, relieving the ennui with cruel sport, as 
they rail at the Christ, offering Him vinegar, and 
bidding Him come down. Then we have the rulers, 
crowding up near the cross, scoffing, and pelting their 
Victim with ribald jests, the " people " standing back, 
beholding; while "afar off/' in the distance, are His 
acquaintance and the women -from Galilee. But if our 
Evangelist touches these incidents lightly, he lingers 
to give us one scene of the cross in full, which the 
other Evangelists omit. Has Jesus found an advocate 
in Pilate? has He found a cross-bearer in the Gyre- 
nian, and sympathisers in the lamenting women? 
He finds now upon His cross a testimony to His 
Messiahship more clear and more eloquent than the 
hieroglyphs of Pilate; for when one of the thieves 
railed upon Him, shouting out " Christ " in mockery, 
Jesus made no reply. The other answered for Him, 
rebuking his fellow, while attesting the innocence of 
Jesus. Then, with a prayer in which penitence and 
faith were strangely blended, he turned to the Divine 
Victim and said, " Jesus, remember me when Thou 
comest in Thy kingdom." Rare faith ! Through the 
tears of his penitence, as through lenses of light, he 
sees the new Dawn to which this fearful night will 
give birth, the kingdom which is sure to come, and 
which, coming, will abide, and he salutes the dying 
One as Christ, the King ! Jesus did not reply to the 


railer; He received in silence his barbed taunts; but 
to this cry for mercy Jesus had a quick response 
"To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise/' so 
admitting the penitent into His kingdom at once, and, 
ere the day is spent, passing him up to the abodes of 
the Blessed, even tp Paradise itself. 

And now there comes the hush of a great silence 
and the awe of a strange darkness. From the sixth 
to the ninth hour, over the cross, and the city, and 
the land, hung the shadow of an untimely night, when 
the " sun's light failed," as our Evangelist puts it ; 
while in the Temple was another portent, the veil, which 
was suspended between the Holy Place and the Most 
Holy, being rent in the midst ! The mysterious dark- 
ness was but the pall for a mysterious death ; for Jesus 
cried with a loud voice into the gloom, " Father, into 
Thy hands I commend My spirit/' and then, as it reads 
in language which is not applied to mortal man, " He 
gave up the ghost." He dismissed His spirit, a perfectly 
voluntary Sacrifice, laying down the life which no man 
was able to take from Him. 

And why ? What meant this death, which was at 
once the end and the crown of His life ? What meant 
the cross, which thus draws to itself all the lines of 
His earthly life, while it throws its shadow back into 
the Old Dispensation, over all its altars and its pass- 
overs ? To other mortals death is but an appendix 
to the life, a negation, a something we could dispense 
with, were it possible thus to be exempt from the bond 
we all must pay to Nature. But not so was it with 
Jesus. He was born that He might die; He lived 
that He might die; it was for this hour on Calvary 
that He came into the world, the Word being made 
flesh, that the sacred flesh might be transfixed to a 

xxii. 47 xxiii.] THE PASSION. 399 

cross, and buried in an earthly grave. Surely, then, it 
was not as man that Jesus died ; He died for man ; He 
died as the Son of God ! And when upon the cross 
the horror of a great darkness fell upon His soul, and 
He who had borne every torture that earth could 
inflict without one murmur of impatience or cry of 
pain, cried, with a terrible anguish in His voice, " My 
God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me ? " we 
can interpret the great horror and the strange cry but 
in one way : the Lamb of God was bearing away the 
sin of the world ; He was tasting for man the- bitter 
pains of the second death ; and as He drinks the cup 
of the wrath of God against sin He feels passing over 
Him the awful loneliness of a soul bereft of God, the 
chill of the " outer darkness " itself. Jesus lived as our 
Example ; 'He died as our Atonement, opening by His 
blood the Holiest of all, even His highest heaven. 

And so the cross of Jesus must ever remain "in the 
midst," the one bright centre of all our hopes and all 
our songs ; it must be " in the midst " of our toil, at 
once our pattern of service and our inspiration. Nay, 
the cross of Jesus will be " in the midst " of heaven 
itself, the centre towards which the circles of redeemed 
saints will bow, and round which the ceaseless "Alleluia " 
will roll ; for what is tf the Lamb in the midst of the 
throne " (Rev. vii. 17) but the cross transfigured, and 
the Lamb eternally enthroned ? 



ST. LUKE xxiv. 

THE Sabbath came and went over the grave of its 
Lord, and silence reigned in Joseph's garden, 
broken only by the -mailed sentinels, who laughed and 
chatted by the sealed sepulchre. As to the disciples, 
this "high day" is a dies non to them, for the curtain 
of a deep silence hides them from our view. Did they 
go up to the Temple to join in the Psalm, how " His 
mercy endureth for ever " ? Scarcely : their thoughts 
were transfixed to the cross, which haunted them like 
a horrid dream ; its rude dark wood had stunned them 
for awhile, as it broke down their faith and shattered 
all their hopes. But if the constellation of the Apostles 
passes into temporary eclipse, with no beam of inspired 
light falling upon them, " the women " are not thus 
hidden, for we read, "And on the Sabbath day they 
rested, according to the commandment." It is true it 
is but a negative attitude that is portrayed, but it is 
an exceedingly beautiful one. It is Love waiting upon 
Duty. The voices of their grief are not allowed to 
become so excessive and clamorous as to drown the 
Divine voice, speaking through the ages, " Remember 
that thou keep holy the Sabbath day ; " and even the 
fragrant offerings of their devotion are set aside, that 
they may keep inviolate the Sabbath rest. 

xxiv.] THE FIRST LORD'S DAY. 401 

But if the spices of the women are the spikenard 
and myrrh of a mingled love and grief, they are at the 
same time a tacit admission of their error. They prove 
conclusively that the women, at any rate, had no thought 
of a resurrection. , It appears strange to us that such 
should be the case, after the frequent references Jesus 
made to His death and rising again. But evidently 
the disciples attached to these sayings of Jesus one 
of those deeper, farther-ofF meanings which were so 
characteristic of His speech, interpreting in some 
mysterious spiritual sense what was intended to be 
read in a strict literalness. At present nothing could 
be farther from their thoughts than a resurrection ; it 
had not even occurred to them as a possible thing ; 
and instead of being something to which they were 
ready to give a credulous assent, or a myth which 
came all shaped and winged out of their own heated 
imaginings, it was something altogether foreign to their 
thoughts, and which, when it did occur, only by many 
infallible proofs was recognized and admitted into their 
hearts as truth. And so the very spices the women 
prepare for the embalming are a silent but a fragrant 
testimony to the reality of the Resurrection. They 
show the drift of the disciples' thought, that when the 
stone was rolled to the door of the sepulchre it shut 
in to the darkness, and buried, all their hopes. The 
only Easter they knew, or even dreamed of, was that 
first and final Easter of the last day. 

As soon as the restraint of the Sabbath was over, the 
women turned again to their labour of love, preparing 
the ointment and spices for the embalming, and coming 
with the early dawn to the sepulchre. Though it was 
" yet dark/' as St. John tells us, they did not anticipate 
any difficulty from the city gates, for these were left 



open both by night and day during the Passover feast ; 
but the thought did occur to them on the way as to 
how they should roll back the stone, a task for which 
they had not prepared, and which was evidently beyond 
their unaided strength. Their question, however, had 
been answered in anticipation, for when they reached 
the garden the stone was rolled away, and the sepul- 
chre all exposed. Surprised and startled by the dis- 
covery, their surprise deepened into consternation as 
passing within the sepulchre, they found that the body 
of Jesus, on which they had come to perform the last 
kind offices of affection, had disappeared. And how ? 
could there be more than "one solution of the enigma? 
The enemies of Jesus had surely laid violent hands 
upon the tomb, rifling it of the precious dust they 
sorrowfully had committed to its keeping, reserving it 
for fresh indignities. St. John supplements the nar- 
rative of our Evangelist, telling how the Magdalene, 
slipping out from the rest, '/ ran " back to the city to 
announce, in half-hysterical speech, "They have taken 
away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where 
they have laid Him ; " for though St. John names but 
the Magdalene, the "we" implies that she was but one 
of a group of ministering women, a group that she had 
abruptly left. The rest lingered by the tomb perplexed, 
with reason blinded by the whirling clouds of doubt, 
when suddenly the " behold " indicates a swift surprise 
"two men stood by them in dazzling apparel." 

In speaking of them as "two men" probably our Evan- 
gelist only intended to call attention to the humanness 
of their form, as in verse 23 he speaks of the appearance 
as " a vision of angels." It will be observed, however, 
that in the New Testament the two words " men "and 
< ( angels " are used interchangeably ; as in St Luke vil 

xxiv.] THE FIRST LORD'S DAY. ' 403 

24, Rev. xxii. 8, where the "angels" are evidently 
men, while in Mark xvL 5, and again in the verse before 
us, the so-called " men " are angels. But does not this 
interchangeable use of the words imply a close relation 
between the two orders of being ? and is it not possible 
that in the eternal ripenings and evolutions of heaven 
a perfected humanity may pass up into the angelic 
ranks? At any rate, we do know that when angels 
have appeared on earth there has been a strange 
humanness about them. They have not even had the 
fictitious wings which poetry has woven for them ; they 
have nearly always appeared^ wearing the human face 
Divine, and speaking with the tones and in the tongues 
of men, as if it were their native speech. 

ut if their form is earthly, their dress is heavenly. 
Their garments flash and glitter like the robes of the 
transfigured Christ ; and awed by the supernatural 
portent, the women bow down their faces to the earth. 
"Why," asked the angels, " seek ye the living among 
the dead ? He is not here, but is risen : remember how 
He spake unto you when He was yet in Galilee, saying 
that the Son of man must be delivered up into the 
hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day 
rise again." Even the angels are not allowed to dis- 
close the secret of His resurrection life, or to tell where 
He may be found, but they announce the fact that they 
are not at liberty to explain. "He is not here; He is 
risen," js the Gospel of the angels, a Gospel whose 
prelude they themselves have heard, but, alas 1 forgotten'; 
and since Heaven does not reveal what by searching 
we ourselves may find out, the angels -throw them 
back upon their own recollections, recalling the words 
Jesus Himself had spoken, and which, had they been 
understood and remembered, would have lighted up the 


empty sepulchre and have solved the great mystery. 
And how much we lose because we do not remember, 
or if remembering, we do not believe ! Divine words 
have been spoken, and spoken to us, but to our ear, 
dulled by unbelief, they have come as empty sound, all 
inarticulate, and we have said it was some thunder in 
the sky or the voices of a passing wind. How many 
promises, which, like the harps of God, would have 
made even our wildernesses vocal, have we hung up, sad 
and silent, on the willows of the " strange lands " ! If 
we only " remembered " the words of the Lord Jesus, 
if they became to us real and eternally true, instead of 
being the unreal voices of a dream, those words would 
be, not "the distant lamps" of Heaven, but near at 
hand, lighting up all dark places, because throwing 
their light within, turning even the graves of our buried 
hopes into sanctuaries of joy and praise ! 

And ,so the women, instead of embalming their Lord, 
carried their spices back unused. Not unused, however, 
for in the spices and ointments the Living One did 
not need their own names were embalmed, a fragrant 
memory. Coming to the tomb, as they thought, to do 
homage to a dead Christ, the Magdalene, and Mary, 
and Johanna, and Salome found a Christ who had 
conquered death, and at the same time found an 
immortality for themselves ; for the fragrance of their 
thought, which was not permitted to ripen into deeds, 
has filled the whole world 

Returning to the city, whither the Magdalene had 
outrun them, they announced to the rest, as she had 
done to Peter and John, the fact of the empty grave ; 
but they completed the story with the narrative of the 
angelic vision and the statement that Jesus had risen. 
So little, however, were the disciples predisposed to 

xxiv.] THE FIRST LORD'S DAY. 45 

receive the tidings of a resurrection, they would not 
admit the fact even when attested by at least four 
witnesses, but set it down as idle, silly talk, something 
which was not only void of truth, but void of sense. 
Only Peter and John of the Apostles, as far as we 
know, visited the sepulchre, and even they doubted, 
though they found the tomb empty and the linen clothes 
carefully wrapped up. They ' ' believed " that the body 
had disappeared, but, as St. John tells us, "as yet they 
knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from 
the dead " (St. John xx. 9) ; and as they leave the empty 
grave to return to their own home, they only " wondered 
at that which was come to pass." It was an enigma 
they could not solve ; and though the Easter morning 
had now fully broke, the day which should light all 
days, as it drew to itself the honours and songs of the 
Sabbath, yet to the minds and hearts of the Apostles it 
was "yet dark;" the glory of the Lord had not yet 
risen upon them. 

And now comes one of those beautiful pictures, 
peculiar to St. Luke, as he lights up the Judaean hills 
with a soft afterglow, an afterglow which at the same time 
is the aurora of a new dawn. It was in the afternoon 
of that first Lord's day, when two disciples set out from 
Jerusalem for Emmaus, a village, probably the modern 
Khamasa, sixty furlongs from the city. Who the two 
disciples were we cannot say, for one is unnamed, 
while the other bears a name, Cleopas, we do not meet 
with elsewhere, though its Greek origin would lead us 
to infer that he was some Gentile proselyte who had 
attached himself to Jesus. As to the second, we have 
not even the clue of an obscure name with which to 
identify him, and in this somewhat strange anonymity 
some expositors have thought they detected the shadow 


of the Evangelist, Luke, himself. The supposition is 
not an impossible one ; for though St. Luke was not an 
eye-witness from the beginning, he might have witnessed 
some of the closing scenes of the Divine life ; while the 
very minuteness of detail which characterizes his story 
would almost show that if not himself a participant, he 
was closely related to those who were ; but had St. Luke 
himself been the favoured one, it is scarcely likely 
that he would have omitted this personal testimony 
when speaking of the " many infallible proofs " of His 

Whoever the two might be, it is certain that they 
enjoyed the esteem and confidence of the disciples, 
having free access, even at untimely hours, to the 
Apostolic circle, while the fact that Jesus Himself 
sought their company, and selected them to such 
honours, shows the high place which was accorded to 
them in the Divine regard. 

We are not apprised of the object of their journey ; 
indeed, they themselves seem to have lost sight of that 
in the gleams of glory which, all unexpected, fell across 
their path. It is not unlikely that it was connected 
with recent events; for now that the central Sun, 
around whom their lives revolved, has disappeared, 
will not those lives necessarily take new directions, 
or drift back into the old orbits ? But whatever their 
purposes might be, their thoughts are retrospective 
rather than prospective ; for while their faces are set 
towards Emmaus, and their feet are steadily measuring 
off the fuflongs of the journey, their thoughts are 
lingering behind, clinging to the dark crest of Calvary, 
as the cloud-pennon clings to the Alpine peak. They 
can speak but of one theme, "these things which have 
happened : " the One whom they took to be the Christ, 

xxiv.] THE FIRST LORD'S DAY. 47 

to whom their hearts had been so strangely drawn ; 
His character, miracles, and words; the ignominious 
Death, in which that Life, with all their hopes, was 
quenched; and then the strange tidings which had 
been brought by the women, as to how they had found 
the grave empty, and how they had seen a vision of 
angels. The word " questioned together' 7 generally 
implies a difference of opinion, and refers to the cross- 
questioning of disputants ; but in this case it probably 
referred only to the innumerable questions the report of 
the Resurrection would raise in their minds, the honest 
doubts and difficulties with which they felt themselves 
compelled to grapple. 

It was while they were discussing these new prob- 
lems, walking leisurely along the road for men walk 
heavily when weighted at the heart a Stranger over- 
took and joined them, asking, after the usual salutation, 
which would not be omitted, "What communications 
are these that ye have one with another, as ye 
walk ? " The very form of the question would help 
to disguise the familiar voice, while the changed 
" form " of which St. Mark speaks would somewhat 
mask the familiar features ; but at the same time it 
would appear that there was a supernatural holding of 
their eyes, as if a dusky veil were wrapped about the 
Stranger. His question startled them, even as a voice 
from another world, as, indeed, it seemed ; and stopping 
suddenly, they turned their " sad " faces to the Stranger 
in a momentary and silent astonishment, a silence 
which Cleopas broke by asking, " Dost thou alone 
sojourn in Jerusalem, and not know the things which 
are come to pass there in these days ? " a double 
question, to which the stranger replied with the brief 
interrogative, " What things ?" It needed no more than 


that solitary word to unseal the fountain of their lips, 
for the clouds which had broken so wildly and darkly 
over Calvary had filled their hearts with an intense and 
bitter grief, which longed for expression, even for the 
poor relief of words. And so they break in together 
with their answer (the pronoun is changed now), 
" Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a Prophet 
mighty in deed and word before God and all the people : 
and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him 
up to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But 
we hoped that it was He which should redeem Israel. 
Yea, and beside all this, it is now the third day since 
these things came to pass. Moreover certain women 
of our company amazed us, having been early at the 
tomb ; and when they found not His body, they came, 
saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which 
said that He was alive. And certain of them that were 
with us went to the tomb, and found it even so as the 
women had said : but Him they saw not." 

It is the impetuous language of intense feeling, in 
which hope and despair strike alternate chords. In 
the first strain Jesus of Nazareth is lifted high ; He is 
a Prophet mighty in word and deed ; then He is stricken 
down, condemned to death, and crucified. Again, hope 
speaks, recalling the bright dream of a redemption for 
Israel ; but having spoken that word, Hope herself 
goes aside to weep by the grave where her Redeemer 
was hurriedly buried. Still again is the glimmer of a 
new light, as the women bring home the message of 
the angels ; but still again the light sets in darkness, 
a gloom which neither the eyes of Reason nor of Faith 
could as yet pierce ; for " Him they saw not " marks 
the totality of the eclipse, pointing to a void of darkness, 
a firmament without a sun or star. 


But incidentally, in the swift current of their speech, 
we catch a reflection of the Christ as He appeared to 
their minds. He was indeed a Prophet, second to 
none, and in their hope He was more, for He was the 
Redeemer of Israel. It is evident the disciples had 
not yet grasped the full purport of the Messianic 
mission. Their thought was hazy, obscure, like the 
vision of men walking in a mist. The Hebrew dream 
of a temporal sovereignty seems to have been a pre- 
vailing, perhaps the prevailing force in their minds, the 
attraction which drew and cheered them on. But their 
Redeemer was but a local, temporal one, who will 
restore the kingdom to Israel ; He was not yet the 
Redeemer of the world, who should save His people 
from their sins. The "regeneration," as they fondly 
called it, the "new creation," was purely national, when 
out of the chaos of Roman irruptions their Hebrew 
paradise will come. For one thing, the disciples were 
too near the Divine life to see its just and large pro- 
portions. They must stand back from it the distance 
of a Pentecost ; they must look on it through their 
lenses of flame, before they can take in the profound 
meaning of that Life, or the awful mystery of that 
Death. At present their vision is out of focus, and all 
they can see is the blurred and shadowy outline of 
the reality, the temporal rather than the spiritual, a 
redeemed nationality rather than a redeemed and re- 
generated humanity. 

The risen 1 Jesus, for such the Stranger was, though 
they knew it not, listened to their requiem patiently 
and wonderingly, glad to find within their hearts such 
deep and genuine love, which even the cross and the 
grave had not been able to extinguish. The men 
themselves were true, even though their views were 


somewhat warped the refractions of their Hebrew 
atmosphere. And Jesus leads them in thought to 
those " shining uplands " of truth ; as it were, spurring 
them on, by a sharp though kind rebuke, to the heights 
where Divine thoughts and purposes move on to their 
fulfilment. " foolish men," He said, " and slow of 
heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken ! 
Behoved it not the Christ to suffer these things, and to 
enter into His glory ? " They thought He was some 
stranger in Jerusalem, yet He knows their prophets 
better than themselves ; and hark, He puts in a word 
they had feared to use. They only called Him tf Jesus 
of Nazareth ; " they did not give Him that higher title 
of "the Christ" which they had freely used before. 
No ; for the cross had rudely shattered and broken 
that golden censer, in which they had been wont to 
burn a royal incense. But here the Stranger recasts 
their broken, golden word, burning its sweet, Divine 
incense even in presence of the cross, calling the 
Crucified the " Christ " ! Verily, this Stranger has 
more faith than they ; and they still their garrulous 
lips, which speak so randomly, to hear the new and 
august Teacher, whose voice was an echo of the Truth, 
if not the Truth itself ! 

"And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, 
He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things 
concerning Himself." It will be observed that our 
Evangelist uses a peculiar word in speaking of this 
Divine exposition. He calls it an " interpretation," 
a word used in the New Testament only in the sense 
of translating from one language to another, from the 
unknown to the known tongue. And such, indeed, it 
was; for they had read the Scriptures but in part, 
and so misread them. They had thrown upon those 

xxiv.] THE FIRST LORD'S DAY, 4 11 

Scriptures the projections of their own hopes and 
illusions ; while other Scriptures, those relating to the 
sufferings of Christ, .were set back, out of sight, or if 
heard at all, they were only the voice of an unknown 
tongue, a vox et preterea nikil. So Jesus interprets to 
them the voices of this unknown tongue. Beginning 
at Moses, He shows, from the types, the prophecies, 
and the Psalms, how that the Christ must suffer and 
die, ere the glories of His kingdom can begin ; that 
the cross and the grave both lay in the path of 
the Redeemer, as the bitter and prickly calyx out of 
which the "glories" should unfold themselves. And 
thus, opening their Scriptures, putting in the crimson 
lens of the blood, as well as the chromatic lens of the 
Messianic glory, the disciples find the cross all trans- 
figured, inwoven in God's eternal purpose of redemption; 
while the sufferings of Christ, at which they had 
stumbled before, they now see were part of the eternal 
plan of mercy, a Divine " ought," a great necessity. 

They had now reached Emmaus, the limit of their 
journey, but the two disciples cannot lose the company 
of One whose words have opened to them a new and 
a bright world ; and though He was evidently going 
on farther, they constrained Him to abide with them, 
as it was towards evening and the day was far spent. 
And He went in to tarry with them, though not for 
long. Sitting down to meat, the Stranger Guest, 
without any apology, takes the place of the host, and 
blessing the bread, He breaks and gives to them. 
Was it the uplifted face threw them back on the old, 
familiar days? or did they read the nail-mark in 
His hand ? We do not know ; but in an instant the 
veil in which He had enfolded Himself was withdrawn, 
and they knew tlim : it was the Lord Himself, the 


risen Jesus! In a moment the hush of a great awe 
fell upon them, and before they had time to embrace 
Him whom they had loved so , passionately, indeed 
before their lips could frame an exclamation of surprise, 
He had vanished ; He " became invisible " to them, as 
it reads, passing out of their sight like a dissolving 
cloud. And when they did recover themselves it was 
not to speak His name there was no need of that 
but to say one to another, "Was not our heart burning 
within, us while He spake to us in the way, while He 
opened to us the Scriptures?" It was to them a 
bright Apocalypse, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ," 
who was dead, and is alive for evermore ; and all- 
forgetful of their errand, and though it is evening, they 
leave Emmaus at once, their winged feet not heeding 
the sixty furlongs now, as they haste to Jerusalem to 
announce to the eleven, and to the rest, that Jesus has 
indeed arisen, and has appeared unto them. 

Returning to Jerusalem, they go direct to the well- 
known trysting-place, where they find the Apostles 
(" the eleven " as the band was now called, though, 
as St. John informs us, Thomas was not present) and 
others gathered for their evening meal, and speaking 
of another and later appearance of Jesus to Simon, 
which must have occurred during their absence from 
the city; and they add to the growing wonder by 
telling of their evening adventure, and how Jesus was 
known of them in breaking of bread. But while they 
discussed the subject for the majority were yet in 
doubt as to the reality of the appearances Jesus Him- 
self stood before them, passing through the fastened 
door; for the same fear that shut the door would 
securly lock it. Though giving to them the old-time 
salutation, " Peace be to you," it did not calm the 

xxiv.] THE FIRST LORD'S DAY. 4*3 

unrest and agitation of their soul ; the chill of a great 
fear fell upon them, as the spectral Shadow, as they 
thought it, stood before them. " Why are ye troubled ? " 
asks Jesus, "and wherefore do reasonings arise in 
your hearts ? " for they fairly trembled with fear ; as 
the word would imply. "See My hands and My feet, 
that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit 
hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold Me having." He 
then extended His hands, drew back His robe from His 
feet, and, as St. John says, uncovered His side, that 
they might see the wounds of the nails and the spear, 
and that by these visible, tangible proofs they might 
be convinced of the reality of His Resurrection body. 
It was enough ; their hearts in an instant swung round 
from an extreme of fear to an extreme of joy, a sort 
of wild joy, in which Reason for the moment became 
confused, and Faith bewildered. But while the heavenly 
trance is yet upon them Jesus recalls them to earthly 
things, asking if they have any meat ; and when they 
give Him a piece of a broiled fish, some of the remnants 
of their own repast, He takes and eats before them all ; 
not that now He needed the sustenance of earthly food, 
in His resurrection life, but that by this simple act He 
might put another seal upon His true humanity. It 
was a kind of sacrament, showing forth His oneness 
with His own ; that >on the farther side of the grave, 
in His exaltation, as on this, in His humiliation, He was 
still the " Son of man," interested in all things, even 
the commonplaces, of humanity. 

The interview was not for long, for the risen Christ 
dwelt apart from His disciples, coming to them at 
uncertain times and only for brief spaces. He lingers, 
however, now, to explain to the eleven, as before to 
the two, the great mystery of the Redemption. He 


opens their minds, that the truth may pass within. 
Gathering up the lamps of prophecy suspended through 
the Scriptures, He turns their varying lights upon 
Himself, the ME of whom they testify. He shows 
them how it is written in their law that the Christ 
must suffer, the Christ must die, the Christ must 
rise again the third day, and " that repentance and 
remission of sins should be preached in His name unto 
all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem." And then 
He gave to these preachers of repentance and remission 
the promise of which the Book of the Acts is a fulfil- 
ment and enlargement, the "promise of the Father," 
which is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It was the 
prophecy of the Pentecost, the first rustle of the 
mighty rushing wind, that Divine breath which comes 
to all who will receive it. 

Our Evangelist passes in silence other appearances 
of the Resurrection Life, those forty days in which, by 
His frequent manifestations, He was training His dis- 
ciples to trust in His unseen Presence. He only in a 
few closing words tells of the Ascension ; how, near 
Bethany, He was parted from them, and taken up into 
heaven, throwing down benedictions from His uplifted 
hands even as He went ; and how the disciples returned 
to Jerusalem, not sorrowing, as men bereaved, but with 
great joy, having learned now to endure and rejoice 
as seeing Him who is invisible, the unseen but ever- 
present Christ. That St. Luke omits the other Resur- 
rection appearances is probably because he intended 
to insert them in his prelude to the Acts of the Apostles, 
which he does, as he joins his second treatise to the 
first. Nor is it altogether an incidental coincidence 
that as he writes his later story he begins at Jeru- 
salem, lingering in the upper room which was the 

xxiv.] THE\ FIRST LORD'S DAY. 415 

wind-rocked cradle of the Church, and inserting as 
key-words of the new story these four words from 
the old : Repentance, Remission, Promise, Power. The 
two books are thus one, a seamless robe, woven for 
the living Christ, the one giving us the Christ of the 
Humiliation, the other the Christ of the Exaltation, 
who speaks now from the upper heavens, and whose 
power is the power of the Holy Ghost. 

And was it altogether undesigned that our Evan- 
gelist, omitting other appearances of the forty days, 
yet throws such a wealth of interest and of colouring 
into that first Easter day, filling it up from its early 
dawn to its late evening? We think ,not. He is 
writing to and for the Gentiles, whose Sabbaths are 
not on the last but on the first day of the week, and 
he stays to picture for us that first Lord's day, the 
day chosen by the Lord of the Sabbath for this high 
consecration. And as the Holy Church throughout 
all the world keeps her Sabbaths now, her anthems 
and songs are a sweet incense burned by the door of 
the empty sepulchre ; for, " The light which threw the 
glory of the Sabbath into the shade was the glory of 
the Risen Lord." 

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A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the 

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tt Very able and very interesting." Dean Pcrowne, 

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A Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the 

Galatians. Third Edition, .53. 

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"His admirable commentary." Dr. Godet. 

A Treatise on Christian Baptism. Cloth, is. 

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Holiness, as Understood by the Writers of the 

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Benjamin Hellier:, His Life and Teaching. A Bio- 
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Alone with the Word : Devotional " Notes on the 
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The Life of William Morley Punshon, LL,D, 

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The Life of Johi* Wesley. By the Rev, JOHN TELFORD, 

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